Phil Perry

Best available players for Patriots on Day 3 of 2024 NFL Draft

Should New England pair Drake Maye with his former Tar Heel wideout?

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The Patriots had three glaring needs offensively headed into draft weekend. As they close up the war room after Day 2, they can say they've addressed them all. 

Have they addressed them all effectively? The answer to that will require a little bit of time before anyone can answer with any certainty.

Drake Maye was their big swing in the first round at the game's most important position. Then came Washington receiver Ja'Lynn Polk in the second round and Penn State tackle Caedan Wallace in the third. 

"Sometimes it doesn't fall for you," de facto Patriots general manager Eliot Wolf said after making two picks on Friday. "It fell pretty nicely for us today."

Polk Plan

Polk was still on the board at No. 37 after the Patriots traded down with the Chargers in a pick-swap move that improved their fifth-rounder to a fourth-rounder. Bypassing the opportunity to take Polk at No. 34 -- something Wolf said the team considered -- the Patriots opted to move back to add a little extra capital.

Four receivers ended up going off the board from picks No. 31-34, including Florida's Ricky Pearsall and South Carolina's Xavier Legette in the first round and Florida State's Keon Coleman and Georgia's Ladd McConkey at the top of the second. 

Polk got to No. 37 and the Patriots claimed him. 

🔊 Patriots Talk Podcast: Patriots draft Washington WR Ja’Lynn Polk with the 37th pick | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Would the Patriots have moved up into the first round for Legette had the opportunity presented itself? The Panthers -- picking at No. 33 -- were able to trade up without giving up all that much in draft capital. And Legette has the physical skill set to project as a potential No. 1. But there was no trade, Legette went to Carolina, and Coleman went off the board to Buffalo one pick before the Patriots were on the clock on Day 2. 

Coleman is a different player from Polk, and he drew plenty of love from coaches and scouts hours before the second night of the draft got underway.

One NFC offensive coordinator called Polk "a dog" for the relentless effort that was apparent on his tape.

"Smart, tough," the coordinator said. "He's not a No. 1. He's not an 'X.' He tracks the ball well down the field, he's just not a blazer speed-wise. You'll want him off the ball. He'll work the middle of the field. He's just a good football player. I like him."

"Strong contested-catch guy," texted one AFC executive after Polk was drafted. "Not a ton of RAC. High character."

Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry, Albert Breer and former Patriot James White offer instant reaction and analysis to the Patriots' selection of Washington WR Ja'Lynn Polk with the 37th overall pick.

Polk is considered a fearless route-runner and a more-than-willing blocker to do some of the dirty work that can be a differentiating factor for players at that position.

Comparisons league sources provided NBC Sports Boston for Polk? One will be easy for Patriots fans to envision: Raiders receiver Jakobi Meyers. The other was Bengals wideout Tyler Boyd.

Neither are necessarily considered game-changers with explosive traits. But both are clear-cut starters and dependable options for whichever quarterback is targeting them in the passing game.

In some ways, Polk might be considered a down-the-middle-of-the-fairway pick. He's reliable, if not a game-breaker. He's tough. He'll help Wolf and head coach Eliot Wolf establish the culture they're looking for. And for a team that has -- to use another non-football sports cliche -- whiffed all too often in the draft in recent years, a double in the second round should be welcomed.

Polk may not project to be the home run No. 1 fans surely were hoping for. But he's a clean projection. And the Patriots can't afford to keep striking out in early rounds.

Wall-ing off the blind side?

Caedan Wallace, meanwhile, has the look of an NFL starter. At 6-foot-5, 314 pounds and with 10.75-inch hands and 34-inch arms, his frame appears to be NFL-ready. He's also an explosive tester (96th percentile broad jump, 81st percentile vertical), and he's experienced.

The drawback for the Patriots is that his experience -- 40 starts -- is all at right tackle. Both Wolf and Wallace himself suggested Friday that Wallace is athletic enough to flip to the left side, but that transition won't be without its challenges. 

In the third round, if Wallace turns into a capable swing tackle with four-position flexibility, that's a "hit." It just wouldn't be exactly what the Patriots need.

Phil Perry shares his grade for the Patriots' selection of OT Caedan Wallace with the 68th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Something both Wallace and Polk seem to bring to the table that the Patriots do need? Toughness. A love of football. An ability to help elevate a team culture that will be rooted in something grown over decades but is undergoing drastic change this offseason.

For those wondering if the Patriots might be able to throw a few more darts at positions of need on Day 3? Here are our best players available in the final four rounds of the draft, including one explosive receiver Maye knows well from their time together at Chapel Hill.

(Bold names are those in this year's draft class who landed on our Prototypical Patriots lists, which are linked for every position group.)

Wide receiver

Highlights of one of Drake Maye's favorite targets, wide receiver Devontez Walker

Interior offensive line

  • Christian Mahogany, Boston College
  • Dominick Puni, Kansas
  • Trevor Keegan, Michigan
  • Tanor Bortolini, Wisconsin
  • Beaux Limmer, Arkansas
  • Brady Latham, Arkansas
Highlights of Boston College offensive lineman Christian Mahogany

Tight end

  • Ja'Tavion Sanders, Texas
  • Theo Johnson, Penn State
  • Cade Stover, Ohio State
  • AJ Barner, Michigan

Running back

Highlights of Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen

Edge defender

  • Cedric Johnson, Ole Miss
  • Brennan Jackson, Washington State

Defensive line

  • Leonard Taylor, Miami
  • Khristian Boyd, Northern Iowa
  • Jordan Jefferson, LSU
Highlights of University of Miami defensive tackle Leonard Taylor III


Defensive back

  • TJ Tampa, Iowa State
  • Jaden Hicks, Washington State
  • Dominique Hampton, Washington
Highlights of T.J. Tampa, a defensive back from Iowa State
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