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Analysis: A Pick-By-Pick Breakdown of the Patriots 2024 NFL Draft Class

With eight selections in the 2024 NFL Draft, here's everything you need to know about the newest Patriots rookies. 

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The 2024 NFL Draft is officially in the books, with the Patriots making eight selections over three days.

For the first time since 1969, New England selected offensive players with their first five picks, starting with quarterback Drake Maye, followed by day-two picks WR Ja'Lynn Polk and OT Caedan Wallace. Although we all agree on the positions personnel chief Eliot Wolf and company addressed, it's debatable whether or not they took the right players.

Fair or not, Polk's career will be compared to Chargers draft selection Ladd McConkey. After trading out of their original draft slot with LA, the Chargers took McConkey, while the Pats waited till the 37th overall pick to draft Polk. Ultimately, it came down to stylistic preference at wide receiver. Polk offers more play strength and better hands than McConkey or others in that tier (Roman Wilson, Jalen McMillan, Troy Franklin), who are more explosive route runners.

New England took their guys, stuck to their board, and it's easy to see the vision of how the two receivers they selected fit together alongside Maye. As is the case with any team in any draft, we'll find out if they were right in a few years.

As much as the debates are interesting, the bottom line is the 2024 NFL Draft hinges on Maye's development. We can nitpick all we want about Polk vs. McConkey, Wallace, or whatever: if Maye is a franchise quarterback, this draft is a resounding success. The last two days were a moot point as long as the Patriots hit on the quarterback, with any "hits" being the cherry on top to hopefully the home run pick in Maye, who was the number-one rated player for New England before the draft on my big board (Polk was No. 24, Baker was No. 40, and Bell was No. 50).

Patriots fans have something to be excited about with Maye, while history will hopefully be kind to Wolf's coin-flip decisions they made elsewhere in the draft. Let's make one thing clear: Maye wasn't a coin flip for the top decision-makers. He was the pick for weeks.

Here's a full rundown with analysis of every player the Patriots picked in the 2024 NFL Draft:

First Round, Three Overall: QB Drake Maye, North Carolina

The easiest pick in the draft for the Patriots was a no-brainer for their top brass. With the information on hand at the time of the pick, Maye was a slam dunk.

On the field, the Pats newest QB is the prototype with excellent arm talent and high-end playmaking both in and out of structure. Maye's 78 big-time throws led college football over the last two seasons, with the proof in the pudding that he can deliver NFL throws from different arm angles and platforms. He also has the mobility to extend plays or pick up first downs as a runner.

As we've gotten to know Maye more, his athletic bloodlines have hit home. All three of Maye's older brothers were in attendance for his introductory press conference, and all three were former DI athletes, with two of his brothers winning national championships in baseball and basketball. Maye had to keep up with his brothers his whole life in a family reminiscent of the Gronkowskis, with the youngest, Drake, emerging as the best athlete of them all.

Now, the onus is on Maye to put in the work. He needs to be more consistent as a passer by improving his footwork and timing in the pocket to hopefully blossom into a more accurate thrower. The 21-year-old isn't a finished product, but the traits are so high-end that it's easy to see a path to NFL success with a playing style that resembles Josh Allen and Justin Herbert.

Second Round, 37th Overall: WR Ja'Lynn Polk, Washington

The Patriots went with their guy in a tier of receivers following a run of six receivers in a 10-pick span. My initial reaction to the Patriots selecting Polk is that he has a high-end complementary receiver upside and can be a good No. 2. In my pre-draft receiver rankings, we had Polk in the same tier as McConkey, Wilson, Troy Franklin, Ricky Pearsall, and Washington teammate Jalen McMillan, who all went by the 102nd pick.

Although modest long speed (4.52s 40-yard dash) and limited explosiveness after the catch could cap Polk's ceiling, there's a lot to like here. Polk won't be a star at the NFL Combine, but he's a gritty ball-winner with magnets for hands, which pairs perfectly with a quarterback who isn't always precise with his accuracy. The Washington product is a gliding one-speed runner, but this dude is just a football player. The Patriots have struck out on traits-based prospects such as Tyquan Thornton (4.2-speed) and N'Keal Harry (size/speed combo). Polk is a natural. He's a savvy route-runner who knows how to get open, runs routes from multiple alignments, and catches everything.

With all their failures drafting wide receivers early, we've always wondered why the Patriots don't target players with similar traits to their late-round successes but with top-50 talent. Polk is in that mold, with a similar playing style to Jakobi Meyers, just with better speed.

Third Round, 68th Overall: OT Caedan Wallace, Penn State

If you look at the consensus boards before the draft, Wallace was the 186th player on Arif Hasan's yearly consensus of the top draft analysts. It's a reach at a position of need, but the board dictated that the Patriots had to jump on the offensive tackle train quickly. Eight offensive tackles were taken in the first round, and five more went before the Patriots picked in the third round. The Pats had to address the need, but I would've liked to see them get more aggressive to secure a tackle with starter upside. Right now, I see Walker having OT3/swing tackle potential.

Wallace is a balanced, patient pass protector who maxes out his 34-inch arm length to keep pass-rushers at his fingertips with solid hand strength in his punch. The Penn State product is also experienced with 40 career starts at right tackle due to Olu Fashanu's presence on the left side. The knocks on film with Wallace are that he has a shorter corner, where speed rushers can run the arc on him. For those reasons, some project Wallace to move inside to guard. But has the length and initial quickness out of his stance to give you hope that he stays outside at the next level.

Fourth Round, 103rd Overall: G Layden Robinson, Texas A&M

My first exposure to Robinson, a three-year starter under former Boston College coach Steve Addazio (now the Aggies O-Line coach), was at the Senior Bowl in January. The Patriots taking another interior lineman raises eyebrows after selecting Sidy Sow, Jake Andrews, Atonio Mafi, and Cole Strange in the top 150 over the last two drafts. Nothing against Robinson, but this might be more of an indictment of those recent draft picks than anything. New England's depth on the interior should be set from the 2022-23 drafts, yet they took another guard this high? Hmmm.

The other interesting takeaway from the Robinson selection is that his play strength and ability to move people is his carrying trait. Robinson is not a zone-blocking athlete with noticeable explosiveness. Instead, he's a road-grading guard who stands out in the running game but needs considerable work in pass protection and isn't a great lateral mover. There are a lot of tea leaves to read here, from run-blocking schemes to how the Pats brass feels about the IOLs already on the roster.

Fourth Round, 110th Overall: WR Javon Baker, UCF

Let the Wolf bake! I love this pick for the Patriots. Baker began his career at Alabama before transferring to Central Florida, where he finished his collegiate career with 1,139 yards and seven touchdowns for the Knights last year. Baker's foundational traits are stacking and tracking the ball over the shoulder, high-pointing fades on the perimeter, and intermediate route breaks off vertical stems—this is a true X receiver.

Baker doesn't have high-end speed, but he's another physical ball-winner who is crafty with his routes. Baker is a great complement on the outside to Polk, a Z/slot, and has an accuracy-erasing catch radius to help his young QB, who, again, isn't always pinpoint accurate. This is a very savvy pick and shows the Patriots are serious about weaponizing the offense.

New England double-dipping in a loaded receiver class was my favorite thing they did in this draft besides drafting Maye, and they got two dawgs to catch passes from their new quarterback.

Sixth Round, 180th Overall: Marcellas Dial, South Carolina

In a similar late-round flier as the Ameer Speed and Isaiah Bolden pairing last year, Dial has the athletic traits and ball skills to compete for a roster spot. He has enough size (5-11, 190) and long speed (4.46s 40-yard dash) to play outside corner, but some look at him as a long-term fit at free safety due to his ball-hawking instincts. Dial has good play speed to carry vertical routes and got his hands on 31 passes over four seasons, including a team-high 10 pass breakups last year. Dial's flip-and-run to carry verticals can be clunky, causing him to lag behind where he'll get grabby in coverage. For those reasons, the Pats could move him to free safety.

Sixth Round, 193rd Overall: QB Joe Milton, Tennessee

I'll steal a line from my Catch-22 co-host Alex Barth: if you need a quarterback to throw it 80 yards, Joe Milton will throw it 80 yards. If you need a quarterback to throw it five yards, Milton will throw it 80 yards. Milton has very little control on the ball, his decision-making is suspect, and his feet are stuck in the mud in the pocket. But he hits driver better than any quarterback in the draft, and he is a good straight-line runner with 4.62-second speed - a dart throw on a project QB.

Seventh Round, 231st Overall: TE Jaheim Bell, Florida State

The Patriots got great value with Bell as their final draft selection. As the fourth big board hit for me this year, Bell is an undersized but explosive pass-catching weapon who can move around the formation. He is at his best on schemed touches, where he averaged 8.1 yards after the catch with 12 forced missed tackles, or seam runs, where he can open up his 4.61-second 40-yard dash (88th percentile).

Bell doesn't offer much as a blocker due to poor size (6-2, 241) and play strength. However, he fits offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt's scheme as a flexible move piece off the line of scrimmage or in the backfield. With the amount of bootleg play-action AVP will likely run, Bell can be effective on misdirection passes into the flats or running through the defense.

A look at the Patriots 2024 selections in the 2024 NFL Draft where New England selected eight players.

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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