The New England Patriots had one of the worst quarterback rooms in the NFL in 2023, and it was a big reason why they went an AFC-worst 4-13. Fortunately for them, they'll have the opportunity to take one of three elite QB prospects -- USC's Caleb Williams, UNC's Drake Maye and LSU's Jayden Daniels -- with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
But is it a given that they'll take a QB at No. 3?
Another option for New England is exploring a trade down from No. 3 to acquire additional capital that could be used to address its many other roster needs. Our Phil Perry laid out such a scenario in his latest NFL Mock Draft, which has the Patriots trading a third-round pick for Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields, trading down from No. 3 to No. 8 while acquiring the Atlanta Falcons' 2025 first-round pick, and landing Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze and Oklahoma offensive tackle Tyler Guyton later in Round 1.
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During Monday's episode of 98.5 The Sports Hub's Zolak & Bertrand, The MMQB's Albert Breer explained why last week's Senior Bowl practices could benefit the Patriots if they're looking to deal the No. 3 pick.
"The Senior Bowl last week actually puts them in a pretty decent position where, I think the gap between the top three quarterbacks and the second three quarterbacks has grown over the last week," Breer said.
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Washington's Michael Penix Jr., Oregon's Bo Nix and Michigan's J.J. McCarthy all were at the Senior Bowl yet didn't exactly distinguish themselves in practices. That means Williams, Maye and Daniels might be the only QBs who get taken in the top half of the first round, making the No. 3 pick all the more valuable for a QB-needy team.
"I feel pretty confident that quarterbacks are going No. 1 and No. 2. Whoever's picking them or if there are trades, I think quarterbacks are going No. 1 and No. 2," Breer said. "I think because of what happened last week, and because of the gap widening between the Williams-Maye-Daniels cluster and the McCarthy-Nix-Penix cluster, what you have now is, if you're picking third, you either love the guy there -- and if you think the guy is a (Joe) Burrow or a (Patrick) Mahomes or a (Josh) Allen, take him and figure out the rest later -- but if you don't think he is, you're probably going to have some other team that's going to be willing to come up and get the pick.
"So, you don't have to take the tackle at No. 3. You can take the tackle at No. 6 or No. 7 and start to accumulate more capital, so you can start to work on filling all the holes that you have."
The case against the Patriots trading down, of course, is that they need help at QB more than almost any other team. They have a golden opportunity to land their QB of the future, and that would be difficult to pass up with the likes of Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe on the roster and a relatively weak free agent class.
As NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Insider Phil Perry pointed out, however, New England's strategy could be influenced by who has final say in personnel decisions -- particularly if that's Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf, who witnessed very little quarterback turnover while in the Green Bay Packers' front office from 2004 to 2017.
"How does Eliot Wolf's experience in Green Bay influence how they handle this draft?" Perry said. "They did not draft a lot of quarterbacks at the top of the draft. They didn't even really draft a lot of tackles at the top of the draft while he or his dad (former general manager Ron Wolf) were in Green Bay.
"But you're going to have the opportunity to choose how you want to build this thing out because of the money and the draft picks that you have."