Quick Slants

Curran: How should Patriots handle top-three pick in 2024 NFL Draft?

This is a fascinating debate.

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The New England Patriots are not too far away from guaranteeing themselves at least a top three pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

They currently own the No. 2 pick, and there's even a path for them to jump up to the No. 1 spot. The last time the Patriots had a top-two selection, and they picked Washington State quarterback Drew Bledsoe first overall in 1993. It turned out pretty well.

Will we see the Patriots take the same approach in 2024? Is there another position the Patriots should prioritize that gives them a better chance of hitting a home run in the first round?

Tom E. Curran explored this scenario more in-depth during NBC Sports Boston's Quick Slants show Tuesday night.

"You're picking somewhere in the top three," Curran said. "You are gonna consider quarterbacks, wide receivers, or offensive line for your team. Which one is gonna give you the best opportunity to hit, or which one is gonna give you the best opportunity for a big payoff? Let's take a look at these positions since 2018, the players who have been drafted in the top 10 at each position."

"Bryce Young, nothing yet," Curran said. "CJ Stroud? Good player. Trevor Lawrence? Good player. Zach Wilson. Trey Lance. Kyler Murray's a coin flip. Daniel Jones doesn't cut it. Baker Mayfield doesn't cut it. Sam Donald doesn't cut it. Josh Rosen was in there as well. He didn't cut it. 

"Let's look at wideouts. Drake London? No. Garrett Wilson? Good player. Ja'Marr Chase? Good player. DeVonta Smith? Good player.

"And now who's your offensive linemen? Paris Johnson? Good player. Ikem Ekwonu? Good. Evan Neal stinks. Penei Sewell's good. Andrew Thomas is good. Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey.

"How many of those players are taking you directly to a Super Bowl? On the offensive line -- none. Joe Burrow, yeah. Maybe at some point Tua (Tagovailoa) is the missing link for the Miami Dolphins to get them to that spot. But you had to have Jaylen Waddle and you had to have Tyreek Hill around him, plus a free agent left tackle that they signed for big money.

"So to me, I look at this whole situation, and I say if I'm the New England Patriots, and I am drafting in the top three, I am one million percent considering trading out of that spot, especially if it's No. 1 or No. 2, especially because of the needs. We've talked about on this program with expiring contracts, jumping out of there, going ahead and adding Marvin Harrison Jr., who's a wide receiver, and the best available offensive tackle. Get yourself set up there, spend well in free agency. Find your quarterback later on."

Trading down, getting more draft picks, and then taking a wide receiver and a left tackle early in the draft isn't a bad plan. Wide receiver and left tackle are among the primary weaknesses on New England's roster.

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The Boston Herald's Andrew Callahan, however, wasn't as excited about this plan as Curran. 

"The only reliable place on Planet Earth where you can find a franchise quarterback is in the top 10 of the draft," Callahan said. "That's it. Where else are you gonna find one?

"We can just talk top three because if the Patriots lose on Thursday night, they are virtually guaranteed as I see it -- unless you think they're gonna beat the Chiefs or Bills -- to get a top-three pick. And that's where you get the Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, CJ Stroud. You are not going anywhere in the modern NFL without a franchise quarterback. That's the whole thing. This is a lottery ticket.

"Look, you need the quarterback. How long have we done this? You are gonna continue to wander the NFL wilderness with all these teams you made fun of for years and years and years and years and all you need, even if you're the Bengals, even if you're the Jaguars, even if you are the freaking Texans, is to get that guy, because the power of the quarterback has never been greater. Just ask all those franchises."

It's a great debate, and there are good examples on both sides.

The Chiefs traded up in 2017 and took Patrick Mahomes with the No. 10 pick. He's won two Super Bowl titles and two league MVPs already. The Bengals went to a Super Bowl with Joe Burrow soon after taking him first overall in 2020. Other teams like the Eagles have spent high draft picks on other positions to build around their quarterback. Philly QB Jalen Hurts was a second-round pick in 2020. The 49ers have built an elite offense around Brock Purdy, who was a seventh-rounder in 2021. San Francisco tried to go the top prospect QB route with Trey Lance (No. 3, 2021) and it didn't work out.

It'll be fascinating to see what the Patriots do come draft time, and that decision might be impacted by how well they execute their free agency plans a month earlier. Passing up a chance to draft quarterback prospects as talented as USC's Caleb Williams and UNC's Drake Maye would be tough. But at the same time, the Patriots have so many roster holes to fill that trading down and acquiring more valuable draft picks might give them the best chance at competing long term.

Luckily for the Patriots, they still have a couple months before they have to decide which specific path is best for them.

You can watch the full episode of "Quick Slants" below:

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