New England Patriots

Mel Kiper's first 2024 NFL Mock Draft has intriguing Patriots pick

Most draft experts have Jayden Daniels going to the Pats at No. 3, but not Mel Kiper Jr.

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It's officially the offseason for all but four NFL teams right now, which means 2024 NFL Draft prep is well underway across the league.

It's a very interesting class, too, especially for teams in need of offense.

There are at least three quarterbacks -- USC's Caleb Williams, UNC's Drake Maye and LSU's Jayden Daniels -- expected to go in the first round. We could see four or five wide receivers selected in Round 1, too, headlined by Ohio State star Marvin Harrison Jr. A couple offensive tackles might be selected in the top 10 as well.

This is all good news for the New England Patriots, whose roster has glaring weaknesses at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive tackle.

ESPN expert Mel Kiper Jr. released his first 2024 NFL Mock Draft on Tuesday, and he has the Patriots selecting Maye with the No. 3 overall pick. The consensus for many experts, as we showed in our latest mock draft roundup, is the Patriots drafting Daniels at No. 3. Most draft experts view Williams and Maye as the likely top two picks.

Kiper, however, has Williams going No. 1 overall to the Chicago Bears and Daniels being taken by the Washington Commanders at No. 2.

"It's a total makeover in New England, which will have a new coach and front office structure for the first time since Bill Belichick joined the organization in 2000," Kiper wrote in his analysis of the Patriots' pick. "New coach Jerod Mayo, whose background is on defense, inherits a total mess on offense. The Patriots ranked second to last in the league in offensive points per game (12.9) and their offensive line ranked last in pass block win rate (43.5%). Linemen Trent Brown and Mike Onwenu and tight ends Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki are among the team's free agents. What better way to start a new era -- and possible offensive rebuild -- than to take an elite quarterback at the top of the draft?

"Maye had some ups and downs in 2023, but he's an outstanding deep-ball thrower in a 6-foot-4 frame. He takes care of the football and has some dual-threat ability. There's a ton to like in his potential. And while the Bears might struggle with the decision to move on from their first-round quarterback picked in the 2021 draft, the Patriots shouldn't agonize much. Mac Jones has regressed enough to make that an easy call this offseason. Quarterback is by far New England's biggest need."

Phil Perry makes a case for the Patriots to draft a QB despite picking at number 3, and offers some NFL comps for Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye.

Maye completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 3,608 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 12 games for the Tar Heels this past season. He has many of the physical traits scouts love, including a 6-foot-4 frame, a rocket arm and the ability to move around well in the pocket.

The Patriots didn't have an explosive offense last season. In fact, they tied the Carolina Panthers for the lowest points scored per game (13.9). Part of that was due to a lack of high-end talent at the wide receiver position. But they also didn't have a quarterback capable of consistently making accurate throws deep downfield, and as Kiper notes above, that's one of Maye's strengths.

The Maye vs. Daniels pre-draft debates will be fascinating. Maye is a better passer, but Daniels has more ability as a runner. Daniels also played against better competition in the SEC than Maye did in the ACC. Daniels won the Heisman Trophy, too.

Kiper's final point is a good one, though. The Patriots desperately need a quarterback, so if Maye is available when they're on the clock, he should be strongly considered.

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