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Dan Kelley’s New England Patriots 2024 NFL Draft Report Card

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North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye poses with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen by the New England Patriots with the third overall pick during the first round of the NFL Draft, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The New England Patriots 2024 NFL Draft is officially in the past. Many outlets want to immediately give their grades on every selection to tell fans how teams performed. While that might generate clicks and attention, it doesn’t make much sense. What grade would people have given taking Tom Brady at No. 199? Or Brock Purdy at Mr. Irrelevant? In contrast, several high selections looked to be future stars and great picks, only to flame out in the NFL. As a result of the unknown, I don’t find traditional report cards to be very useful.

In this instance, the process of the Patriots picks will be analyzed. Did they do the right thing? That remains to be seen. What is known is that their selections were not always in sync with my own. New England also has the luxury of more information at their disposal, including what their non-draft plans for roster-building are. A pick-by-pick breakdown of the New England Patriots 2024 NFL Draft moves:

QB Drake Maye, North Carolina (Round 1, No. 3)

New England needed a potential franchise quarterback. They might not have another chance to acquire one with this much upside again. I ranked Maye as the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the draft, so obviously this felt like a slam dunk to me. I had first-round grades on three other available quarterbacks at this spot. But there was no guarantee any would still be on the board in Round 2. Some had suggested waiting, or trading back up until the end of Round 1 for a QB, but all six top prospects were gone in the first twelve selections.

New England Patriots Pick: QB Drake Maye, North Carolina
Dan Kelley’s Pick: QB Drake Maye, North Carolina

WR Ja’Lynn Polk, Washington (Round 2, No. 37)

I performed about 1,000 mock drafts leading up to the 2024 NFL Draft. Knowing the Patriots were likely to target a quarterback at No. 3 overall, the next two positions of need were wide receiver and offensive tackle. I tried every scenario of taking them in a different order with New England’s second and third selections. I concluded that the Patriots would get more value with a tackle in Round 2 and a wide receiver in Round 3. And if they opted for a wide receiver first, they’d need to trade back into the end of Round 2 to secure their offensive tackle. Eliot Wolf came to a different conclusion.

Wolf traded back three spots from No. 34 and turned their Round 5 pick into a Round 4 selection in the deal. He then took wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk. I have no problems with the player, who had exceptional production at Washington. Polk can line up in different spots, a versatility that was attractive to the Patriots. I had him ranked as the No. 14 wide receiver in the draft and thought he’d be great value if he were still available at No. 68, though that seemed unlikely.

My issue with the pick is simple. The value to me of Polk and whichever OT would be left in Round 3 did not equal the value of taking a tackle in Round 2 and dipping back into a deep wide receiver crop in Round 3. Again, not a problem with the player, just the order in which the positions were prioritized. If they did go wide receiver (which they did) Adonai Mitchell of Texas was the top remaining on my board.

New England Patriots Pick: WR Ja’Lynn Polk, Washington
Dan Kelley’s Pick: OT Kingsley Suamataia, BYU

OT Caeden Wallace, Penn State (Round 3, No. 68)

After the Patriots bypassed offensive tackle in Round 2, five more went before their pick at No. 68 in Round 3. Patrick Paul (No. 55, Dolphins), Blake Fisher (No. 59, Texans), Roger Rosengarten (No. 62, Ravens), Kingsley Suamataia (No. 63, Chiefs), and Brandon Coleman (No. 67, Commanders). Paul and Suamataia were the lone tackles from this group I  found worthy of going this high. But at a premium position, players would go higher than their overall ranking may warrant.

New England drafting a tackle here made sense. The highest remaining on my board was Yale’s Kiran Amegadjie. If Wallace is able to transition to the left side, which the Patriots seem confident he can do, it could wind up as a steal. The talent is there and he had his best season in 2023, which has him trending in the right direction as he heads into the NFL.

Had Eliot Wolf followed my draft strategy there were still plenty of quality wide receivers on the board, as expected. This group included Troy Franklin (Oregon), Roman Wilson (Michigan), and Jermaine Burton (Alabama).

New England Patriots Pick: OT Caeden Wallace, Penn State
Dan Kelley’s Pick: WR Troy Franklin, Oregon

OL Layden Robinson, Texas A&M (Round 4, No. 103)

After the 2021 season, Layden Robinson would have been viewed as a future first-round pick and arguably the best guard in this draft class. I had Robinson projected as an early Day 3 selection, so having him picked in this range was expected. It was, however, surprising that the New England Patriots were the team to take him.

I did not view the interior offensive line as a position of need for New England. The Patriots had guards Cole Strange, Sidy Sow, Atonio Mafi, Nick Leverett, Tyrone Wheatley Jr., and Michael Jordan all under contract at guard before the draft. Backup center Jake Andrews can play guard too.

The pick of Robinson leads me to believe a few options could be true. Among these theories are Cole Strange’s health and availability being a bigger concern than most realize. Eliot Wolf’s staff might also not be high on the 2023 draft picks (Sow, Mafi, J.Andrews). The other option is that they view Layden Robinson as having the versatility to play center and potentially shift there in the NFL. Robinson was a center prospect entering college. It will be interesting to see how the roster on the interior of the offensive line shakes out and where Layden Robinson ends up playing as a pro.

Since I didn’t see that position as a need, I looked to the defensive side of the football. Both cornerbacks and pass-rushers are needed in New England. I went with a Day 2 corner still on the board on Day 3.

New England Patriots Pick: OL Layden Robinson, Texas A&M
Dan Kelley’s Pick: CB T.J. Tampa, Iowa State

WR Javon Baker, UCF (Round 4, No. 110)

At the No. 110 overall pick in the NFL Draft, the top player remaining on my draft board was UCF wide receiver Javon Baker. Eliot Wolf and I agreed there. New England drafting Baker makes a lot of sense. The Patriots used the phrase “weaponize the offense” often this offseason. Getting two rookie receivers for their rookie quarterback certainly changes things up on New England’s offense, which was desperately needed.

If New England was going to go offense again here, Javon Baker was the right pick.

I thought they could have gone defense here. The top players on my board at each defensive position were: Brandon Dorlus (DL, Oregon), Austin Booker (ED, Kansas), Jeremiah Trotter Jr. (LB, Clemson), T.J. Tampa (CB, Iowa State), and Jaden Hicks (S, Washington State). I made Booker my “live” pick because I had taken Tampa at No. 103. But Dorlus Booker, Tampa, and Hicks would have all made sense here on defense as well.

But New England went offense and Baker was the best option on my board if going that route.

New England Patriots Pick: WR Javon Baker, UCF
Dan Kelley’s Pick: ED Austin Booker, Kansas

CB Marcellas Dial Jr., South Carolina (Round 6, No. 180)

It took until selection No. 180 for the New England Patriots to take a defensive player. All the edge rushers in the Top 200 on my board were gone by this point. It is why I had snagged Booker at No. 110. The top defensive prospect on my board was LSU DL Mekhi Wingo, and the top overall player was Boston College OG Christian Mahogany.

Dial was the third-ranked cornerback remaining on my board behind D.J. James (Auburn) and Kamal Hadden (Tennessee). But by Round 6 in the draft that margin is thin. All would have been considered in the same tier. Dial is a prospect coming off his best season at South Carolina who is 6-foot-0 and runs a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash. Those are good qualities to take a game on at this stage.

My live pick was on offense because I had already taken two defensive players. The top offensive players on my board, by position, were: Joe Milton III (QB, Tennessee), Dylan Laube (RB, UNH), Brendan Rice (WR, USC), Jaheim Bell (TE, Florida State), Donovan Jennings (OT, South Florida), Chrisitan Mahogany (OG, BC), and Beau Limmer (C, Arkansas)

Since the Patriots were due to select again in 13 picks, I went with Jaheim Bell. I thought options players might still be available at No. 193 or there wouldn’t be a tremendous drop-off to the next option(s).

New England Patriots Pick: CB Marcellas Dial Jr., South Carolina
Dan Kelley’s Pick: TE Jaheim Bell, Florida State

QB Joe Milton III, Tennessee (Round 6, No. 193)

Before the draft, I suggested that if the Patriots did a quarterback at No. 3 overall, Joe Milton III still might be worth adding if he slipped to the tail end of the draft. I had him ranked as the No. 7 quarterback on my draft board. That means I valued Milton for the Patriots more than any quarterback not selected by No. 12 overall. He was the top QB on my board since No. 13 overall.

Based on the Patriots draft, this pick makes sense for them here. If asked to make this pick, I’d have gone with Jaheim Bell, who was still available. Or if they hadn’t taken Layden Robinson, perhaps Christian Mahogany. The BC guard had good value despite not necessarily playing a position of need. But after taking Robinson in Round 4 that would not have made sense.

The most tempting player on defense was Mississippi State linebacker Nathaniel Watson. New England brought him in for a Top 30 visit and he was projected to go around No. 200 in the draft.

In my picks, I’d still only taken one wide receiver. I added to Trroy Franklin (Round 3) here.

New England Patriots Pick: QB Joe Milton III, Tennessee
Dan Kelley’s Pick: WR Brenden Rice, USC

TE Jaheim Bell, Florida State (Round 7, No. 231)

To conclude the 2024 NFL Draft the Patriots took tight end Jaheim Bell in Round 7. The selection received my approval. Bell was my live selection for New England 51 picks earlier. He was the top player remaining on my draft board at the time of his selection, joining Maye and Baker as Patriots to top my board when they were chosen.

I couldn’t take Bell with my live pick in Round 7 because I already had taken him in Round 6. In some cases patience pays off, as it did for Eliot Wolf here. Myles Cole (DE, Texas Tech), Solomon Byrd (DE, USC), Michael Barrett (LB, Michigan) and Kenny King (CB, Penn State) were among the prospects I considered here. I chose to take the top running back remaining on my board. That was Dillon Johnson of Washington.

New England Patriots Pick: TE Jaheim Bell, USC
Dan Kelley’s Pick: RB Dillon Johnson, Washington

Final Analysis

This report card was not to give a letter grade to Eliot Wolf and the New England Patriots for their 2024 NFL Draft. I wanted to evaluate their draft process and the logic behind their picks in general.

Both our drafts selected QB Drake Maye and TE Jaheim Bell. We both selected two wide receivers (New England took Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker, while I selected Troy Franklin and Brenden Rice). A cornerback went in both scenarios (Marcellas Dial Jr. in real life, T.J. Tampa in my scenario).

The first big difference in the drafts was my belief that an offensive tackle should be selected with New England’s Round 2 pick, or the team would need to trade back up into Round 2 to get one. The Patriots did neither and wound up with Caeden Wallace in Round 3. If the combination of Wallace and Polk outperforms Franklin and Suamataia, the Patriots’ strategy worked out well.

The second big difference was New England’s selection of Layden Robinson. The move surprised me because of the position, not the player. I used that draft capital to work on bolstering the defense. I did the same for the Javon Baker pick (my highest-ranked player at the time) opting to address a second wide receiver later.

Final Results

New England Patriots:
QB Drake Maye, North Carolina
WR Ja’Lynn Polk Washington
OT Caeden Wallace, Penn State
OL Layden Robinson, Texas A&M
WR Javon Baker, UCF
CB Marcellas Dial Jr., South Carolina
QB Joe Milton III, Tennessee
TE Jaheim Bell, Florida State

Dan Kelley:
QB Drake Maye, North Carolina
OT Kingsley Suamataia, BYU
WR Troy Franklin, Oregon
CB T.J. Tampa, Iowa State
ED Austin Booker, Kansas
TE Jaheim Bell, Florida State
WR Brenden Rice USC
RB Dillon Johnson, Washington

The New England Patriots looked to bolster their offense in the NFL Draft and appear to have done just that. Whether their draft strategy was the way to go, or their players at every spot were the best available remains to be seen. They hoped to “weaponize their offense” and spent significant draft capital on potential weapons. The front office also has the advantage of knowing their plans for players like Layden Robinson.

Final report card grade for the New England Patriots 2024 NFL Draft? TBD.