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NFL Notes: Pats Go On the Offensive

Eliot Wolf & Co. addressed the Patriots needs in their first draft in charge.

Director of Scouting Eliot Wolf and Head Coach Jerod Mayo from the 2024 NFL Draft room.
Director of Scouting Eliot Wolf and Head Coach Jerod Mayo from the 2024 NFL Draft room.

Eliot Wolf and Jerod Mayo didn't provide many surprises during their first draft together, and that alone qualifies as good news for Patriots fans looking for additions to the offense.

After a dismal 2023 season that saw the Patriots among the bottom-dwellers in many offensive categories, Wolf and Mayo made sure to focus on that side of the ball. Of the team's eight draft picks over the weekend, seven were spent on offense and five were skill positions including a pair of quarterbacks.

Whether or not the infusion of youth will translate to improvement remains to be seen, but unlike a year ago when the Patriots drafted three defensive players with their first three selections despite being in a similar situation, the new regime recognized what needed to be done.

It all starts – and ends really – with Drake Maye at the top. Wolf pulled the trigger on the former North Carolina quarterback with the third overall pick, foregoing any overtures to move down in an effort to stockpile picks. His skills are undeniable with a combination of size, strength and athleticism that rivals anyone, but he also has plenty of developing to do in order to refine those traits and become more consistent.

The other two key cogs are wideouts Ja'Lynn Polk and Javon Baker, taken in the second and fourth rounds, respectively. Polk is a steady receiver with excellent hands and a solid 6-1, 203-pound frame. He has drawn some comparisons to Cincinnati's Tyler Boyd, who has enjoyed a productive career as a possession receiver for the Bengals.

Baker is more of a dynamic presence, as evidenced by his colorful Webex call with the media shortly after his selection. Baker, a 6-1, 208-pounder who began his career at Alabama before finishing at Central Florida, is more of a big-play threat who has worked on the outside and can get down the field.

"Come to the home stadium and bring your popcorn. That's all I can tell you all. Bring your popcorn -- I make people in wheelchairs stand up," Baker told reporters shortly after being drafted.

That tandem will have an opportunity to grow alongside Maye, and it will be interesting to watch them develop together over the next four years. That alone makes this draft intriguing after a couple of years devoid of any playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.

The one lingering question when it comes to the remodeling is the offensive line. Wolf grabbed a pair of linemen – Caden Wallace and Layden Robinson – but neither has any experience at left tackle. Wallace (6-5, 341) played right tackle at Penn State and was guilty at times of allowing too much pressure. Some believe he had the ability to work on the left side but the presence of first-round pick Olu Fashanu kept him on the right.

The Patriots seemed to indicate he had the ability to make the switch, but neither he nor free agent pickup Chuks Okorafor, Wolf's pick as the starter before the draft, has any discernible experience playing left tackle. Not ideal.

Robinson (6-4, 315) is a guard so he doesn't figure to enter into that mix. However, his selection could be noteworthy as it's a possible indication of how the new regime feels about the young interior linemen drafted in recent years. Cole Strange, Sidy Sow, Atonio Mafi and Jake Andrews would seem to form a decent nucleus of depth moving forward, even if this winds up being veteran David Andrews' final season as he is set to enter free agency in 2025. Adding Robinson could mean there are some questions about the four young linemen.

Again, the offensive overhaul will largely come down to the development of Maye. If he hits it could mean a quick turnaround as the Patriots try to move out of the stone age with their attack. If not, it's possible we're having similar discussions in a few years.

Either way the hope that comes with a new direction and quarterback is a welcome experience.

Draft tidbits

It certainly appeared as if the Patriots were looking to make a deal late in the first round when a run on wide receivers began. Buffalo's decision to slide down from 28 to 32 thanks to a trade with the Chiefs kickstarted things as Kansas City chose Texas wideout Xavier Worthy. Three picks later the Niners chose Florida's Ricky Pearsall, putting the receiver-needy Bills on the clock to close the night.

Carolina had made it known heading into the weekend that they planned to take South Carolina's Xavier Legette to open Day 2 with the first pick of the second round, and the Bills were clearly looking to continue moving back. The Panthers ultimately swapped spots with Buffalo, and Legette went to Carolina before Florida State's Keon Coleman went to Buffalo to open Friday night.

At that point the Patriots traded back from 34 to 37 and chose Polk, so it's certainly possible that Wolf & Co. were interested in one of those two – most likely Legette. It's also possible that Buffalo chose to work with Carolina instead of dealing with a division rival.

Later in the draft the Patriots may have missed out on another one of their preferred targets when Denver moved ahead of New England and grabbed Oregon's Troy Franklin with the second pick of the fourth round at 102. Franklin was on the team's radar as one of its 30 visits, but ultimately Wolf chose Baker at 110 (with a pick acquired in a second-round trade down with the Chargers). Baker was also in for one of the team's 30 visits, so the Patriots clearly had interest in both.

Mel Kiper weighs in

ESPN's Mel Kiper offered some praise and criticism of the Patriots draft, crediting the team for filling some needs while also questioning the timing of some of the picks. Overall Kiper gave Wolf a B in his first draft in charge.

"In their first draft without Bill Belichick in charge since 2000, the Patriots were facing several questions about their roster. Could they find a quarterback of the future? Could they find a potential rookie starter along the offensive line? And could they find an impact wide receiver to help their new QB? They certainly tried to answer "yes" to all three.

"This was New England's first top-five pick since 1994, and its depth chart is depleted at a few positions. Director of scouting Eliot Wolf, who ran the draft room, didn't have any extra selections on the first two days. This draft was about rebooting. And it was good to see Wolf & Co. lock on to Drake Maye (3) as their quarterback of the future, then focus on surrounding their young passer with more talent. While I didn't love the value of wideout Ja'LynnPolk (37) high in Round 2, there are no doubts about his college production and potential. Can he develop into a solid No. 2 for Maye? I had receiver Javon Baker (110) only 10 spots lower in my rankings than Polk, and the Pats were able to get him in Round 4. Baker dominated on go-balls on his way to a 1,139-yard 2023 season.

"New England reached for offensive tackle Caeden Wallace (68), though there was a run at the position and teams were scooping tackles up quickly. Layden Robinson (103) has extremely long arms for a guard, but he lacked concentration at times and was inconsistent as a run-blocker. I have him at No. 177 in my rankings. Quarterback Joe Milton (193) has a rocket of a right arm but struggled with accuracy, while tight end Jaheim Bell (231) was stellar after the catch.

"Wolf hit this roster's biggest needs with his top picks and now has a quarterback to build around. I don't expect the Patriots to be a great team this season, but at least their offense will be fun to watch."

Barmore sticking around

The Patriots have been taking care of their own players this offseason and that theme continued in the immediate aftermath of the draft as the team reportedly signed defensive lineman Christian Barmore to a four-year extension with a maximum value of $92 million, according to ESPN.

Barmore, a second-round pick in 2021, has been a disruptive force along the defensive line. He enjoyed a strong 2023 season, posting 8.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits while enjoying a spike in playing time.

Instead of heading into free agency following the 2024 season Barmore will be sticking around. His ability to create pressure from the interior has been valuable for a Patriots defensive line that was stout up front all season a year ago.

Barmore's re-signing, added to those of Mike Onwenu and Kyle Dugger, is another indication of Wolf's intention to continue developing young talent as the rebuilding process continues.

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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