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Lazar's Post-Combine Mock Draft: Which Quarterback Do the Patriots Target in the First Round?

After a week in Indianapolis, here is a post-combine mock draft for the Patriots before free agency begins next week. 

Pictured is North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) and LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5).
Pictured is North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) and LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5).

With the scouting combine in the rearview mirror, the 2024 NFL Draft is starting to take shape with the offseason in full swing.

Although Pro Days and Top-30 visits are still to come in the draft process, the next big step on the NFL calendar to paint a clearer picture of the Patriots draft needs is free agency. From this perspective, New England's approach to free agency, which begins with the legal tampering period on March 11, won't focus on building a roster through a spending spree that resembles their record-breaking 2021 offseason.

Instead, the messaging from head coach Jerod Mayo and de facto GM Eliot Wolf is a more methodical team-building strategy of draft, develop, and retain. Along those lines, one would expect the Pats to make strong pushes to retain core players who are in-house free agents, such as Kyle Dugger, Mike Onwenu, Hunter Henry, and Kendrick Bourne. Then, we could see them reinforce strengths on the defensive side of the ball in a strong free-agency class while adding a few contributors on offense.

Despite having over $100 million in projected cap space, the expectation is the Patriots won't be throwing money around in the form of massive free-agent contracts. In this exercise, we'll operate under the assumption that New England's defense will be fully stocked to go all-in on the offense in the draft. They've also theoretically added immediate contributors at tight end to avoid a weaker draft class and will be in the backup/bridge QB market rather than a franchise solution.

Essentially, the Patriots set themselves up to attack the strengths of this year's draft: quarterback, wide receiver, and offensive tackle. New England has the luxury of a draft class that aligns with their major needs, so why should they overcomplicate things? Keep. It. Simple.

There is also a sound argument, especially with a bridge quarterback, for a trade-down in this draft to accumulate assets to stack talent on the roster – it's a viable plan. However, there aren't any guarantees that the Patriots will have a chance to draft a quarterback prospect of this caliber in the future, with the fear being a return to NFL purgatory as an 8-9 win team.

Following a trip to Indianapolis last week, here is a post-combine mock draft for the Patriots:

Selection: 3rd Overall | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 223

The best feeling coming off the combine was that the league consensus is that either Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels are legitimate franchise quarterback talents. The only question is whether the Commanders will take Daniels or Maye. The rumblings are that Maye and even Michigan's J.J. McCarthy might be leapfrogging Daniels, but my hunch is those are smokescreens. It's lying season, after all. I can't help feeling that a defensive-minded coach (Dan Quinn) and an air raid offensive coordinator (Kliff Kingsbury) would love a dynamic dual-threat. For those reasons, this mock draft has Washington taking Daniels over Maye.

As for Maye's fit with the Patriots, it's a really good one. Although he's sporadic with his accuracy, Maye logged more big-time throws over the last two seasons than any prospect in this year's QB class. He has excellent arm talent to attack all areas of the field, with the second-reaction toolbox to create off-script. Along with the physical tools, Maye shows a detailed approach, like sensing pressure pre-snap to buy himself time with pocket movement, and an advanced understanding of attacking between the numbers. Maye has the playmaking gene to create on third down with the arm talent and familiarity to execute a play-action heavy early-down offense. OC Alex Van Pelt and senior assistant Ben McAdoo are known for helping groom quarterback mechanics and footwork, which is Maye's biggest concern. The Pats coaches have the chops to get Maye mechanically tied together to make him a more consistent passer.

Selection: 34th overall | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 326

With the Patriots selecting their franchise quarterback, they must get Maye some protection ASAP. Last season, New England ranked second-to-last in ESPN's pass-blocking win rate, making it a priority to provide better support for their young quarterback. If the Patriots don't improve their pass-blocking, Maye doesn't stand a chance in his development.

In comes an ultra-athletic prospect with NFL bloodlines in Suamataia. Although he's not as polished as Penei Sewell, Suamataia tested as a better athlete than his All-Pro cousin. The BYU product's movement skills are all over his film with fluid mirroring footwork in pass protection, excellent lateral agility to execute reach blocks in outside zone, and athletic pulls, climbs, and screen blocks in space. He'll need to develop his hand placement and leverage, while he can sometimes be a little too aggressive. Still, Suamataia should develop into a rock-solid left tackle. His raw athleticism is first-round caliber.

Selection: 68th overall | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 221

Alright, now it's time to "weaponize" the offense. Although waiting until the third round to add a playmaker on offense is tough, the Patriots play the board here. This is one of the deepest wide receiver classes in recent memory, so you'll still get a good player while addressing pressing needs early in the draft. For a team with several holes at premium positions, the focus is on building from the inside out. It's premature to jump at a wide receiver in the first round without an answer at quarterback or a stable offensive line.

With that said, I initially cooled on Legette following a bumpy practice week at the Senior Bowl, where he struggled to finish plays at the catch point. However, his runaway speed was backed up by a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at 221 pounds. The word that I keep returning to as far as the Patriots needs on offense is explosiveness. Due to his burst and ball-carrying ability, Legette is a big-play threat on verticals, crossers, and schemed touches. He's also quarterback friendly with his ability to haul in off-target throws outside his frame and climb the ladder. Legette would be a good fit for Alex Van Pelt's play-action heavy system paired with Maye's willingness to attack downfield. Florida wideout Ricky Pearsall was also a strong consideration here.

Selection: 104th overall | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 196

For this mock draft, the Patriots passed on an underwhelming group of free-agent receivers while adding veteran tight ends, opening the door for a WR double-dip. Burton may go higher than this on day two, but some receivers have to last longer than expected.

Burton was another strong combine tester with a 4.45-second 40-yard dash and elite explosiveness scores. The Alabama product's best traits are his speed, strong hands at the catch point, and separation quickness. He needs to run routes with better pacing in the initial stages to set up his breaks, but he flashed dynamic routes on film with good deep speed. Burton should translate as more of a technician to pair with Legette's raw explosiveness. The Patriots can unlock Maye's arm talent between the two of them.

Selection: 136th overall (proj.) | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 308

Along with double-dipping at wide receiver, it makes sense for the Patriots to dip back into the offensive tackle class for more reinforcements. New England's top two tackles from a year ago, Onwenu and Trent Brown, are free agents, while the overall talent level in this group needs to improve. In a great year for offensive tackles, the Pats add two with starter potential.

After a troubling performance in the national championship game, Rosengarten might've rescued his draft stock by finishing first among all O-Linemen at the combine with a 4.92-second 40-yard dash. Still, the Washington product is undersized for a tackle, with only 33.5-inch arms at 6-5, 308 pounds. His lack of ideal size shows up on film, where he sometimes struggles to anchor and generate movement in the run game. On a positive note, Rosengarten is a plus-athlete who gains immediate ground out of his stance for a zone run scheme and is considered a polished technician with 28 career starts at right tackle. He should stick as a pro, either as a swing tackle or starting right tackle, if he can improve his play strength in an NFL weight room.

Selection: 182nd overall (proj.) | Height: 5-9 | Weight: 192

The Patriots enter free agency without much depth behind Rhamondre Stevenson in their offensive backfield. Veteran backup Ezekiel Elliott is an unrestricted free agent, leaving Kevin Harris's 34 career carries as the only viable back on the roster besides Rhamondre. You'd think they'll add at least one running back in free agency. But they should still throw a dart at a day-three running back with a complimentary skill set to Stevenson.

Before the combine, many pundits projected Irving as a late day-two pick. However, you can't ignore that a player touted as an undersized change-of-pace back bombed in Indy. Irving posted a 3.71 out of 10 relative athletic score with a 4.55-second 40-yard dash and poor explosiveness scores. On film, his subpar 40-time shows up as a one-speed runner without much burst. Still, he's a springy ball carrier with noticeable lateral quickness and great vision. Irving also looks comfortable as a pass-catcher, adding the possibility of a role as a third-down back. The Oregon product didn't test well, but there's a lot to like about his film.

Selection: 229th overall (proj.) | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 255

Yup, I finally took a defensive player. The goal wasn't to purposely ignore the defensive side of the ball, but you'd think the Pats will be set defensively. Depending on what happens with their in-house free agents, they could take an edge defender or cornerback earlier.

Byrd is a typical Patriots edge-setter with a 6-3, 255-pound frame that can hold the point of attack at the end of the line. The USC product is likely a late day-three pick because he lacks the twitchiness to win with pure get-off and speed as a pass-rusher. But he plays with the necessary strength and aggressiveness to set the edge in the run game.

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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