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NFL Draft

With the Thirty-Fourth Pick of the 2024 NFL Draft…

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New England Patriots NFL Draft target,Oregon wide receiver Troy Franklin (11) carries the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Utah Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The New England Patriots reportedly had considerable interest in signing Calvin Ridley, the top wide receiver available in NFL free agency. Ridley ended up signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He agreed to a four-year contract potentially worth $92 million. Trading for a star wide receiver is still an option for New England. However, it sounds like Patriots fans shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for that to happen.

CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reported after the Ridley signing that the Patriots “will mainly turn their attention to the draft to address WR.”

New England signed K.J. Osborn after that deal. Osborn is a good player who will improve the Patriots wide receivers room. However, Osborn is not a bona fide WR1 by any means. That is what Patriots fans were hoping for this offseason. If Anderson is correct that the Patriots plan to turn their attention to the NFL Draft to address wide receiver, who will they be targeting?

The Patriots own the number three overall selection in the draft. It is believed New England intends to keep that pick and take either Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels as their quarterback of the future. Unless they grab Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr. at three, the wide receiver position would need to be addressed later. If they traded down slightly they might still be able to select Malik Nabers or Rome Odunze. Beyond that, New England is dipping into the second tier, or lower, of the 2024 class.

Wide Receivers Available at No. 34

If New England stays at No. 34 in the NFL Draft, the first option would be hoping that one of the wide receivers who may go in Round 1 falls to them. This group includes Brian Thomas Jr. (LSU) and Adonai Mitchell (Texas). Some receivers could go in the first round who don’t necessarily complement what is currently on the roster. Smaller and/or slot receivers such as Ladd McConkey (Georgia) and Xavier Worthy (Texas) fall into this camp.

Assuming New England is looking for a more traditional “X” receiver, there are still some solid options. Whether those prospects are being taken too early at 34 is irrelevant if they work out. A look at some of the options…

Keon Coleman, Florida State

Coleman was showing up extremely high on projected draft boards early in the 2023 season. He has excellent size (6-foo-3, 217 pounds). Keon Coleman was also producing. In the Seminoles’ season-opening win over LSU, he caught nine passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns. But Coleman eclipsed 100 yards only one other time all season. His stock took a hit at the combine when he ran a 4.61 40-yard dash among a group that was flying. Coleman has trouble gaining separation, which is not the friend of a rookie quarterback. While Coleman could still have a solid NFL future, there are better options here, even if Thomas Jr. and Mitchell are already off the board.

Xavier Legette, South Carolina

Legette has some unbelievable athletic skills. He is not as tall as Coleman (he’s 6-foot-1) but has decent size for the position. Legette weighed 221 at the combine. His style might be too similar to DeVante Parker, who the New England Patriots just moved on from. His specialty is winning 50/50 balls with great vertical leaps and body control. Xavier Legette is a fifth-year senior who had only one productive season with the Gamecocks. Before 2023, he had career totals were 42 receptions, 423 yards, and five touchdowns in four seasons. Last season Legette produced 71 receptions, 1,255 yards, and seven touchdowns. Like Coleman, he is an intriguing prospect who will tempt somebody to take him fairly early.

Troy Franklin, Oregon

Mel Kiper Jr. didn’t even put Franklin in his Top 10 wide receivers in his most updated rankings. Although Franklin is thin (6-foot-3, 187 pounds) the real concern with him was drops. His 10% drop rate is the highest of any of the top wide receiver prospects. However, Franklin has height, speed (4.41 40-yard dash), and production. Last season he caught 81 passes for 1,383 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also improved every season he played for the Ducks. His Pro Football Focus grades have improved from 63.5 (2021) to 75.0 (2022) to 84.9 (2023). If Franklin can catch with his hands consistently, and put on some more muscle, he could be a true draft steal.

Drafting an Offensive Tackle

The New England Patriots remain in the market for help at left tackle as well. The 2024 NFL Draft will feature a record-breaking number of offensive tackles taken in Round 1. However, there can still be quality options available at 34. Kingsley Suamataia (BYU) and Jordan Morgan (Arizona) could both still be on the board, even if seven tackles go in the first. Either could be a Week 1 starter as a rookie for New England. Suamataia is a player that could become a future All-Pro if he continues to develop at the. next level. These are two players to keep an eye on for New England. However, selecting either means waiting even longer to select that difference-making wide receiver fans are hoping for.

Later Wide Receivers

There will be quality wide receiver prospects available beyond 34. Once again, New England needs to decide if they are going for a more traditional X-receiver or if they are simply going for the best receiver available. That is the difference between players like Roman Wilson (Michigan) and Ricky Pearsall (Florida), vs. somebody like Brenden Rice (USC). There is also a chance that somebody from the group above could slide on Draft Day.

New England Patriots Select…

Wide receiver Troy Franklin of Oregon. If they stay put where they are in the draft, it is safe to assume Thomas Jr. and Mitchell are both gone. McConkey is rated higher at the moment but doesn’t provide the same skill set as Franklin, who still has his best football ahead of him. Not bad for a player who just put up 81-1383-14 totals last season.

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