Phil Perry

Exploring NFL player comps for all eight Patriots draft picks

There are shades of former Patriots in both of New England's rookie receivers.

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We get it. Trying to accurately grade draft picks moments after they've been taken is ultimately a futile exercise. Even if occasionally you can get a sense for whether or not some draft classes are better (or worse) than others

Finding accurate player comparisons for draft picks? Same deal. These rookies have yet to play a snap in the NFL. Trying to discern whether or not they'll adopt a similar play style -- or put together a similar career -- to an accomplished veteran is next to impossible.

But these types of post-draft exercises aren't about nailing it several years before we can say how a young player looks as a pro. It's about providing an opinion on what they player has shown as a collegian, or evaluating the process that went into the selection, or projecting how a player may fit into a particular scheme with a particular coaching staff. It's about trying to provide an idea of how this player might look months before training camp.

With that in mind, let's go ahead and borrow an idea from our friends at NBC Sports Philadelphia and find comps for all eight Patriots draft picks.

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

Player Comp: Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (via Dane Brugler of The Athletic)

Maye isn't quite as tall as the 6-foot-6 quarterback who soon will be running an offense directed by Jim Harbaugh out in Los Angeles. But he has the overall frame, arm strength and athleticism that makes Herbert a good comparison for the North Carolina product from a physical standpoint.

Maye will be able to fit passes into tight windows with his above-average velocity, and in scramble situations he'll be athletic enough to pick up what's necessary. From a play-style standpoint, Maye is a bit more of a gunslinger than the at-times conservative Herbert, making Josh Allen a reasonable comp in that regard. Maye had more deep-passing yardage over the last two college seasons than fellow top-three picks Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels.

"With his physical gifts and smarts," Brugler wrote in The Beast draft guide, "he is cut from the same cloth as Justin Herbert and has a similar ceiling as an NFL player."

Phil Perry shares his draft grade for the Patriots' selection of UNC QB Drake Maye with the third overall pick.

Round 2 (No. 34 overall): Ja'Lynn Polk, WR, Washington

Player Comp: Jakobi Meyers, WR, Las Vegas Raiders (via AFC personnel exec to NBC Sports Boston)

Polk may not be viewed as a gamebreaker as he leaves an explosive downfield passing offense at Washington and heads to New England. His straight-line speed and explosiveness isn't in the same class as some of the others selected in the first two rounds in this year's draft. But he tracks the ball well, and he'll be a dirty-work player who can make his living in the traffic that exists in the middle of the field.

He may be the best blocking wideout in this class, and his strong hands could make him a quarterback's best friend in short order. Sounds a lot like Meyers, one AFC personnel executive pointed out.

"Strong contested catch guy," he texted soon after the pick was turned in. "Not a ton of RAC. High character."

One offensive assistant compared him to Tyler Boyd, the Bengals wideout who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 and 2019 when Alex Van Pelt coached quarterbacks in Cincinnati.

Phil Perry and Albert Breer share their grades for the Patriots' selection of WR Ja'Lynn Polk with the 37th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Round 3 (No. 68 overall): Caedan Wallace, OL, Penn State

Player Comp: Josh Jones, OT, Baltimore Ravens (via Brandon Thorn of Bleacher Report)

Good luck to anyone out there trying to come up with sure-that-makes-sense offensive line comps. Luckily for us, Brandon Thorn of Bleacher Report is one of the best in the business in that regard.

He views Wallace as a powerful and athletic prospect (9-foot-8 broad jump, 96th percentile) with long arms (83-inch wingspan) and big hands (10.75 inches), who could get even more out of his physical abilities with a little more coaching at the next level. That was Jones when he left the University of Houston in 2020 and was drafted -- like Wallace -- early in the third round.

Patriots fans likely will be hoping that Wallace establishes himself as more of a full-time left tackle than Jones has to date. Over the last three seasons, Jones has functioned as a super-sub of sorts, playing significant snaps at both tackle spots and both guard spots.

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

Round 4 (No. 103 overall): Layden Robinson, OG, Texas A&M

Player Comp: John Simpson, OG, New York Jets (via Brandon Thorn of Bleacher Report)

You may not know John Simpson. You may not care to know John Simpson. But John Simpson has been a full-time starting guard in two of the last three years for the Raiders and Ravens. If that's what the Patriots end up getting in Robinson -- who saw all of his playing time for the Aggies come at right guard -- they'll take it.

Thorn calls Robinson a "high-level developmental prospect," and graded him as a fifth-rounder. That would mean Robinson qualifies as a bit of a reach, but for a Patriots offensive line group that has had a hard time finding consistency along the interior since the departures of Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney, perhaps Robinson can bring to Foxboro a Simpsonian level of professionalism.

That might not mean high-level starting-caliber play, but the label of "solid starter" could be in Robinson's future. Simpson, now with the Jets, graded out as Pro Football Focus' 36th-best guard in football last year.

Phil Perry likes the 4th round pick of guard Layden Robinson from Texas A&M, with New England adding to the group they've drafted in the past couple of years

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

Player Comp: Brandon Lloyd, former NFL WR (via Steve Smith Sr.)

A boundary circus-catch machine? Who can play on the outside but might not be a traditional "burner" in New England? Former Panthers and Ravens great Steve Smith Sr. found a comparison for Baker that will be familiar to Patriots fans.

"My comp with him? Brandon Lloyd," Smith said prior to the draft. "He makes every contested catch contested. Acrobatic, contested, diving, jumping out of the gym. I love the release... He uses every part of the release on the corners. He gives you everything. Head and shoulders, like a dominant wide receiver should. Excellent feet."

Lloyd caught 74 passes for 911 yards in his lone season with the Patriots in 2012, but that was at the tail end of a 12-year career that included on Second-Team All-Pro nod and one Pro Bowl in 2010. If the Patriots end up getting something similar from Baker, that would certainly qualify as a "hit."

Phil Perry breaks down his draft grade for WR Javon Baker

Round 6 (No. 180 overall): Marcellas Dial, DB, South Carolina

Player Comp: L'Jarius Sneed, CB, Tennessee Titans (via Relative Athletic Score)

Have to imagine this one is going to catch a sizable chunk of our readership by surprise. A sixth-round draft pick whose name only entered into the collective consciousness of the New England region a few days ago being compared to ... one of the most highly-paid corners in football? 

Per their testing, they ain't far off. Both measured in at 6-feet and hovering around 190 pounds. Dial's 40 time (4.46 seconds) isn't as quick as the one Sneed posted in 2020 (4.37), but they clocked the same 10-yard split (1.56), and their vertical and broad jumps are very similar. When looking for comps based on Kent Lee Platte's Relative Athletic Score, Sneed is actually the first name that comes up.

Let's be clear: That's not to say Dial is going to be one of the best defensive backs in football sometime soon. But it is to say he's an excellent athlete. He could very well carve out a role in the kicking game, which will be more highly valued across the league in 2024 with the kickoff -- an altered version, at least -- coming back into play.

Phil Perry hands out his draft grade for the Patriots 6th round pick, cornerback Marcellas Dial

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

Player Comp: DeShone Kizer, former NFL QB (via @CFBNumbers)

Milton is a unicorn physically. He's claimed to have been able to throw a football over 80 yards since high school. And he's proven that his arm is so absurdly strong, you don't even question a story like that one.

His closest physical comp on is Josh Allen. On, the first name that pops up is Cam Newton. Milton is neither of those players. But comparing him to someone like JaMarcus Russell doesn't feel right, either.

Instead, understanding Milton's rare physical profile, let's just try to give you a sense for how efficient he was in college. Per CFBNumbers on Twitter, Milton's closest comp -- when it comes to EPA per play, pass EPA, rush EPA and EPA lost to sacks -- he's almost a perfect match for former Notre Dame signal-caller DeShone Kizer, who was taken by the Browns in the second round back in 2017.

Phil Perry breaks down why the Patriots' late-round gamble on Tennessee QB Joe Milton III could pay off

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

Player Comp: Chigoziem Okonkwo, TE, Tennessee Titans (via

Funny enough, the closes physical comparison for Bell on is former Patriots first-round pick Daniel Graham. But Graham was a relentless blocker and a force in the running game. That's not considered to be Bell's modus operandi as he becomes a pro.

He's more of a weapon in the passing game, with enough juice to give an offense a yards-after-the-catch threat who's difficult to bring down. That makes him a better comp for the second-closest player on his comp list.

Both Bell and Okonkwo measured around 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds prior to being drafted. Both were fast (measuring over the 88th percentile in the 40) and jumped high (both around 35 inches in the vertical). Neither as considered a ready-made blocker. But Okonkwo -- a fourth-round pick of the Titans in 2022 -- just posted a 54-catch, 528-yard season in 2023.

If Bell can give the Patriots anything close to that as a seventh-round pick, they'd be thrilled.

Phil Perry hands out the final grade of this year's Patriots draft class to FSU TE Jaheim Bell
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