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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu May 23 - 02:00 PM | Tue May 28 - 11:55 AM

3 Biggest Patriots Draft Takeaways

The Patriots hit their biggest needs in the 2024 NFL Draft but some big roster questions remain.

Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf and head coach Jerod Mayo.
Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf and head coach Jerod Mayo.

There was a common refrain when the pundits broke down the Patriots biggest needs heading into the 2024 NFL Draft. 'Quarterback, wide receiver and left tackle… in some order,' were almost universally agreed upon and wouldn't you know it, those were the exact first three positions picked when the draft finally arrived.

However, the second part of that common refrain was that it would be nearly impossible to hit all three of those needs with sure-fire perfect-fit prospects and ultimately that was also how it played out. Drake Maye was the easy slam dunk that the team knew they were going to select and while many mock drafts projected the Patriots trading back up into the first round, it was a move that did not materialize despite reported attempts by the team to do so.

New England took their receiver, Ja’Lynn Polk, a highly regarded if not underrated player, and then had to watch as the top remaining left tackle prospects went off the board through the second round and into the third. They landed with Caedan Wallace, a sure-fire NFL tackle prospect but one who spent his college career on the right side, leaving a degree of uncertainty on the left side.

There's a ton to like about this draft class, especially Maye and the two receivers that the Pats double-dipped, but there are also some pretty big questions as to how it will all play out as New England prepares to open OTAs to the media later this month.

Here are our three biggest takeaways and the remaining roster questions that still loom large.

Patriots drafted wide receivers Ja'Lynn Polk (2) and Javon Baker (1) in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Patriots drafted wide receivers Ja'Lynn Polk (2) and Javon Baker (1) in the 2024 NFL Draft.

1. Weaponized

Eliot Wolf said at the Combine that the offense needed to be weaponized and that's what the team has done over the course of the spring, with new free agency additions K.J. Osborn and Antonio Gibson, and three draft picks in receivers Ja'Lynn Polk, Javon Baker and tight end Jaheim Bell. Bell, a seventh-round pick, is the only one without lofty expectations this season, but the rest should all be expected to add a new dimension to the New England attack.

Polk and Baker are complementary players to each other but will enter a packed position group at receiver that runs 11 players deep. After a failed run at free agent prize Calvin Ridley, the offense still lacks a clear-cut number-one receiver, but there's plenty of potential to build around at this stage, more than any time in recent memory. Maye will now have two receivers to develop with and the sooner he starts clicking with Polk and Baker the sooner the Patriots next offensive evolution will arrive.

Just a week ago the Patriots offense lacked juice and excitement and while expectations for what the rookie class can contribute immediately should be measured, there's suddenly a lot to be interested in, including the cannon arm of Joe Milton, whose physical talent is worth nurturing and should at least add some wow moments to OTAs and training camp.

Patriots tackle Michael Onwenu (71).
Patriots tackle Michael Onwenu (71).

2. Competition Along the Line

After free agency and the draft, the Patriots biggest question mark is at the left tackle position. Chuks Okorafor was signed to a one-year deal and is currently penciled in on the left side according to Wolf's pre-draft press conference. The addition of Caedan Wallace provokes similar questions to those about Okorafor playing the left side. Both have been right tackles and a seamless move to the blindside is never guaranteed even if both have the athleticism needed to make the switch.

There are some other unknowns however at the position. Calvin Anderson missed most of 2023 with an illness and has almost 700 career snaps at left tackle. His posts on social media indicate that he's ready to go for 2024, as the free agent signee from last season could be the biggest dark horse in the left tackle equation. Tyrone Wheatley Jr. also has left tackle potential but has been a developmental player and still has yet to see game action in three seasons.

Meanwhile, Michael Onwenu is currently seen as the team's starting right tackle but he always can slide back inside if multiple tackles emerge, which would be an ideal problem to have. But the competition inside at the guard spots figures to be almost as intense as at the tackle spots, with three interior players drafted last year, another in Layden Robinson drafted this year, and an experienced free agent signing in former Buccaneer Nick Leverette.

Other than David Andrews at center and Michael Onwenu somewhere on the right side, not much is certain along the offensive line. There's a lot of young, unproven depth and the team must hope that competition will bring out the best in them and a clear-cut starting five will emerge. It could be one of the most fluid position groups of the summer, as the team could really use a surprise jump from one of their potential tackles.

3. Rolling with the D

The Patriots selected just one defender in 2024, cornerback Marcellas Dial from South Carolina and he's an intriguing fit at a position of sneaky need. While Christian Gonzalez and Jonathan Jones are high-level starters, the defense needs a third rotational option to play on the outside and allow Jones to slide inside on passing downs. Free agent Stephon Gilmore is a popular potential target to return to New England to give them another proven outside presence, but if he does not the team will look to Dial, second-year corners Isaiah Bolden and Alex Austin, and veterans Shaun Wade and Marco Wilson to rise up and secure a significant role on defense.

Dial has outside potential and versatility to play the different roles that the Patriots defensive coaches will ask of him, however, the slot position is also a question mark after the departure of Myles Bryant, who remains a free agent. Marcus Jones is returning from injury, while Azizi Hearn provides additional depth.

There's decent depth of young players at cornerback and there are two major roles that appear very much up for grabs. Someone will have to emerge.

The rest of the defense seems pretty well set. With Christian Barmore secured for the long term and the anticipated returns of Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez after early injuries in 2023, the D does not lack potential or star power. Pass rush depth could be a concern after Judon and Joshua Uche, and it will certainly be a long-term concern with both slated for free agency in 2025 along with a chunk of their defensive leaders like Davon Godchaux and Deatrich Wise, but for 2024 this is an experienced squad that needed to take a back seat as the draft focused on the needy offense. Still, there are jobs up for grabs that will be interesting to watch over the spring and summer.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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