The New England Patriots have a strong chance to finish the 2023 season with a top-three pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
The last time the Patriots had a top-five pick was 1994 when they selected USC linebacker Willie McGinest at No. 4 overall. This time the Patriots should choose to upgrade their offense with a top selection, whether it's a quarterback, wide receiver or left tackle.
For any Patriots fans who haven't paid a ton of attention to college football this season, this week is a good time to start. It's conference championship week, and many of the best prospects in the 2024 draft will be playing in some of the most important games of their collegiate careers.
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Here's a list of draft prospects who Patriots fans should watch during conference championship week. Some players at positions that the Patriots don't need to address early in the draft, such as cornerback, have been omitted. Check out the full schedule for each game here.
Oregon vs. Washington, Pac-12 Championship Game
- Bo Nix, QB, Oregon
- Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon
- Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon
- Brandon Dorlus, Edge, Oregon
- Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington
- Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
- Ja'Lynn Polk, WR, Washington
- Bralen Trice, Edge, Washington
Nix was a good, but not great quarterback at Auburn from 2019 through 2021. He revitalized his career at Oregon, and his run with the Ducks might end with a Heisman Trophy. Nix leads all quarterbacks with 3,906 passing yards. He also showed tremendous accuracy by completing 78.6 percent of his pass attempts with only two interceptions. His 37 touchdown passes rank No. 2 in the nation behind LSU's Jayden Daniels (40). Nix likely will be a top 10 pick, and he can improve his draft stock even more with a win over the Huskies -- the only team Oregon has lost to this season.
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Oregon's top wide receiver is another exciting draft prospect. Troy Franklin's 1,349 receiving yards are the third-most in the nation, and his 14 touchdown catches are one behind LSU's Brian Thomas Jr. for the most in the sport. Despite having a great season, Franklin was not among the finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which is given annually to the most outstanding wide receiver in college football. Maybe that will give him some extra motivation Friday night.
Penix should also be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy after leading Washington to an undefeated regular season. He ranks No. 2 in passing yards with 3,899 while also throwing for 32 touchdowns with only four interceptions. Penix also has plenty of experience after playing six seasons in college, the last two with the Huskies.
Rome Odunze is one of the best wideouts in the 2024 class. He has tallied 73 receptions for 1,326 yards -- fourth-most among all players. His 13 touchdown catches are the third-most among wideouts. He's a phenomenal player and a lock to be a first-round pick. Not many wide receivers have his combination of speed and size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds). Odunze was one of the three Biletnikoff Award finalists, along with Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr. and LSU's Malik Nabers.
Michigan vs. Iowa, Big 10 Championship
- J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan
- Rod Moore, S, Michigan
McCarthy could be a late first-round pick or go at some point on Day 2. The Wolverines' run-heavy offense didn't require McCarthy to do a ton -- just 257 pass attempts -- but when called upon he was consistently accurate with a career-high 74.8 completion percentage, 19 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
Florida State vs. Louisville, ACC Championship
- Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State
- Johnny Wilson, WR, Florida State
The Seminoles offense has a few very good wide receivers, and that group is highlighted by Coleman and Wilson. Coleman could be a top 10 or top 15 pick and is the second-ranked WR behind Marvin Harrison Jr. on many pre-draft rankings. His athleticism, size (6-foot-4 and 215 pounds) and ability to win 50-50 balls are all impressive. Coleman also ranks among the most sure-handed wide receivers with zero drops on 80 targets this season.
Oklahoma State vs. Texas, Big 12 Championship Game
- Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas
- Adonai MItchell, WR, Texas
- Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas
- Ja'Tavion Sanders, TE, Texas
If the Patriots don't select a QB in the first round, Ewers, who completed 69 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions, would be an interesting option on Day 2 of the draft. He led a Texas offense that scored 35.1 points per game. Worthy led the Longhorns with 67 receptions and 883 yards, while Mitchell led all Texas pass-catchers with nine receiving touchdowns.
Georgia vs. Alabama, SEC Championship Game
- Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
- Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia
- Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia
- Dallas Turner, Edge, Alabama
- Chris Braswell, Edge, Alabama
This might be the best game of the weekend.
These two SEC powerhouses send tons of players to the NFL each year, and 2024 should be no different. Bowers is one of the most dominant tight ends college football has seen in a while, and he's a top 10 prospect (even top five in some places) on just about every draft ranking right now.
Alabama doesn't have a ton of stud prospects on offense, but Nick Saban's defense is again loaded with quality pass rushers such as Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell.
SMU vs. Tulane, AAC Championship Game
- Michael Pratt, QB, Tulane
Pratt is an intriguing Day 3 QB prospect. He has completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 2,168 yards with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions. The Green Wave are 11-1 two years after finishing 2-10, and Pratt is a major reason for that impressive turnaround.