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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Tue Apr 16 - 02:00 PM | Wed Apr 17 - 09:55 AM

Patriots Mailbag: Are You Buying the Latest Patriots Draft Rumors Regarding the Quarterback Class?

The post-Pro Day reports are linking this quarterback prospect to the Patriots, but is it lying season or legitimate hype?

JJ-McCarthy-Mailbag

The Patriots offseason is full speed ahead on the 2024 NFL Draft, with Pro Days and private workouts taking place over the next few weeks.

New England sent crews to LSU and North Carolina's Pro Day's last week. Along with head coach Jerod Mayo and de facto GM Eliot Wolf, the Pats had nine staffers in attendance for quarterbacks Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye's throwing sessions on their college campuses.

The Patriots also sent a similar contingent to Michigan for Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy's workout. Based on recent comments from Mayo and buzz around the league, McCarthy has entered the chat with the third overall pick. Initially, this quarterback class was a three-horse race, with projected first-overall pick Caleb Williams alongside Daniels and Maye. Now, McCarthy seems to be in the discussion.

According to longtime draft reporter Tony Pauline, the "buzz" around the Pro Day circuit is that the Patriots could draft McCarthy with the third overall pick. Pauline reported that Wolf is "pushing hard" for McCarthy to be New England's pick due to his high upside.

However, it's important to remember that it's lying season. Nobody knows how the board will settle. If the pre-draft reports were always accurate, Mac Jones would've been selected by the 49ers with the third overall pick in the 2021 draft. Last offseason, Will Levis was a "lock" to go in the top 10, but ultimately lasted until the second round. Those are just a few recent examples.

The point here isn't to dunk on reports or reporters doing their jobs—this isn't freezing cold takes. With that said, it's important to remember that two people's opinions matter as April 25th approaches, and it's anyone's guess what Mayo and Wolf are thinking.

New England's top decision-makers are still formulating their final draft board. Although the Pro Days are important, Mayo has said the heavy lifting in the vetting process will take place during "30" visits and private workouts with these quarterbacks. Mayo told reporters at the league meetings that he expects to hold private visits with Daniels, Maye, and McCarthy in the lead-up to the draft.

Chicago has already made its intentions clear that it will take Williams with the first overall pick. The Patriots draft destiny is in Washington's hands. Until the Commanders turn in their card, it's tough to envision the Pats doing anything, with a trade down potentially occurring when New England is on the clock if Washington takes their guy.

For now, everything is speculation about the Commanders and Patriots quarterback preferences. As much as we want answers, things aren't set in stone until the commissioner is at the podium on draft night — we'll have to wait and see.

Let's empty the Patriots Unfiltered mailbag with the draft less than a month away:

Evan, how do you like the new kickoff rule, and what do you think its impact will be?
Marc S.

The death of the traditional NFL kickoff was the Super Bowl producing 13 touchbacks with zero returns in February. The Patriots only returned 18 kickoffs during the 2023 season, showing a significant downward trend in the competitiveness of the play. Now, the kickoff return will resemble the XFL rules with the setup zone for the return team and the starting point for the coverage unit 10 yards apart with a returner in the landing zone.

From this perspective, it's a welcomed change that should produce excitement and interesting new schemes. Special teams coordinator Jeremy Springer became a more prominent figure in New England. The Pats coaches will now need to coach the players on how to cover and block under the new rules, making kickoffs a bigger part of head coach Jerod Mayo's training camp.

Patriots WR Jalen Reagor
Patriots WR Jalen Reagor

As for the returns themselves, this becomes more like a punt return or even a run play, where finding and accelerating through a rush lane will supersede the typical build-up speed for kickoff returners. The Patriots have prime returner candidates in Marcus Jones and Jalen Reagor. But don't be surprised if the league starts putting running backs deep because vision and burst to get through the line of scrimmage, or in this case, the first wave, will be critical. I'm also interested in seeing if reverses or rugby-style pitches become more prevalent. There are some fun ways to scheme up a big play when needed under the new rules.

If the Vikings offer No. 11, No. 23, and their 2025 first-round pick for No. 3, I'm taking the deal. What are your thoughts?
Bob D.

It's a tempting offer from the Vikings for the Patriots to rebuild the supporting talent on their roster for a future investment at the quarterback position. The new motto seems to be "patience" over instant gratification, with head coach Jerod Mayo giving a telling answer about potentially trading down at the annual league meetings last week:

"The guaranteed way to win is to accumulate more picks. So, if we don't feel convicted at number three, we are willing to do that [trade the pick] as well," Mayo said. "If someone offers a bag, as we would say, a lot of first-round picks, we definitely have to talk about those things."

The messaging in Mayo's recent interviews suggests he's seeing the logic behind trading down with the current roster still lacking difference-makers offensively. However, the hold-up to me is trading out of the top 10 entirely. The Patriots need to walk away from the first round with a blue-chip offensive talent, and my fear is that they'll miss out at No. 11: will one of Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, Rome Odunze, Joe Alt, or Olu Fashanu be available at Minnesota's pick?

As the Patriots, I'd need to ensure one of those five players to pass on the quarterbacks. There's always a chance they could pull a Cardinals by trading down then back up, maybe to leapfrog the Jets (No. 10) to secure the second OT (Fashanu). But you're playing the roulette wheel now. It's risky. I'm inclined to stick and pick a QB, but if a "bag" is thrown at them while still securing an elite offensive prospect, I won't blame them for trading down.

If the Patriots pass on a quarterback this year, who are the projected top quarterbacks in next year's draft?
Steve C.

That's a discussion worth having, seeing that the Patriots are considering trading down this year. That would obviously put them back in the quarterback carousel next cycle. As many have said, the 2025 quarterback class is much weaker than this year's group. There's always a chance someone breaks out next fall a la Jayden Daniels, but the overall talent level at the top isn't the same.

The quarterbacks to watch would be Shedeur Sanders (Colorado), Quinn Ewers (Texas), Carson Beck (Georgia), Kurtis Rourke (Indiana), and Cam Ward (Miami). Right now, next year's class looks more like the 2022 draft, where Kenny Pickett was the lone first-rounder, rather than this year, where as many as six QBs could go round one. I'm not optimistic that the Patriots will find their franchise quarterback in the 2025 draft, but we'll see what happens during the season.

I'm baffled on why people are down on Bo Nix. What do you think of him?
Greg G.

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix (QB07) participates in a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix (QB07) participates in a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis.

I wouldn't use the word baffled to describe the lukewarm market for Nix, but he'd be another contingency plan for the Patriots early on day two if they pass on the first wave of quarterbacks. My read on Nix is that he's an on-time thrower with enough physical upside to see a future as an NFL starter. He does well layering throwing between the numbers, isn't a statue back there with above-average mobility, and has improved each year in college.

However, his deep accuracy and willingness to test tighter downfield windows give you some pause, while he'll be a 24-year-old rookie who took six years in college to develop to this point. Due to his advanced age and developmental track, Nix is likely close to his ceiling. That ceiling could be a functional starter with comparisons to Alex Smith or a less aggressive Baker Mayfield. You can win with that, making Nix an option at No. 34 in a trade-down scenario for New England. But the Oregon product is unlikely to carry the offense to victory, so he's not generating more first-round buzz.

Is there a chance a potential starting offensive tackle is available at No. 34? If so, who might fall to the Patriots?
Steve E.

With the most likely outcome being a quarterback at No. 3, the order of operations for the Patriots is another fascinating discussion. New England is in an interesting spot at No. 34, where the second wave of receivers might've passed while the day-one starting tackles could also be off the board.

Texas WR Xavier Worthy
Texas WR Xavier Worthy

After stellar combines, Texas wideouts Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell put themselves in the first-round conversation. If the Pats stay at No. 34, they'll likely be looking at a receiver board that includes Keon Coleman, Ladd McConkey, Troy Franklin, and Xavier Leggett — exciting options but flawed players who aren't in the same tier as the late first-round guys (Mitchell, Worthy, Brian Thomas Jr.).

At offensive tackle, two potential targets who could contribute as rookies are BYU's Kingsley Suamataia and Arizona OT Jordan Morgan. However, both project as better right tackles, with Suamataia needing development while many expect Morgan to transition inside to guard. From this perspective, the top of the second round is too early for Houston's Patrick Paul or Yale OT Kiran Amegadjie.

If you're locked into a tackle at No. 34, Morgan and Suamatai are two potential targets. I also wouldn't sleep on Washington tackle Roger Rosengarten as a dark horse to go earlier than expected. Rosengarten is a battle-tested tackle with an excellent athletic profile (9.59 RAS). Based on these options, a trade-up into the late first round to secure an immediate impact rookie at either tackle or receiver shouldn't be ruled out for the Patriots, especially after a more methodical approach in free agency.

If Drake Maye is the pick at three, how do you feel about taking fellow Tar Heel Tez Walker to keep the pair together?
Chris K.

Although it's tempting to pair Maye with his top target at UNC, Walker is a difficult projection for a few reasons. First, most of his "wins" on film are him running through the defense without much resistance. His 4.36-speed plays, but his ability to finish through contact and a simplified route tree are concerns. There were also issues with drops. All this came to a head during a difficult week at the Senior Bowl, where Walker struggled to separate and win at the catch point on contested targets.

Walker is still a capable field stretcher who looked smooth at his Pro Day catching passes from Maye. Along with speed, he also has a large catch radius haul in throws outside his frame. I'm not totally out on Walker, but his lack of route detail and shaky hands is troubling. I'd much rather him in a double-dip scenario or early on day three. There's too much Tyquan Thornton in his game to pick Walker with a premium pick on day two.

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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