New England Patriots

Patriots address huge position of need in ESPN's new 2024 NFL Mock Draft

It might be hard to pass up on a top QB prospect at No. 2 overall.

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The New England Patriots have a bunch of roster needs to address in the 2024 NFL Draft, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

Despite scoring three first-half touchdowns in a surprise road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14, the Patriots still have the lowest-scoring offense in the league at 13 points per game. The lack of a true No. 1 wide receiver is a huge problem. The offensive line needs to be bolstered as well. There's no long-term solution at left tackle, especially if veteran Trent Brown doesn't re-sign in the offseason.

But the primary weakness on New England's roster is quarterback. It's extremely difficult to win at a high level on a consistent basis without a top-tier player at this position.

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The quarterbacks who won Super Bowls over the last 10 years are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford and Nick Foles. All of those players, with the exception of Foles, will end up in the Hall of Fame. It's not impossible to win the Super Bowl without a Hall of Fame-level QB, but that situation requires the rest of the roster to be that much stronger.

So it would make sense if the Patriots targeted a quarterback with their first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. The Patriots currently own the No. 2 overall selection.

ESPN's latest 2024 NFL mock draft was published Tuesday by longtime draft expert Matt Miller, and he projects the Patriots taking North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye at No. 2.

"Much like Chicago, the Patriots need to start over at quarterback, especially since the entire organization could reset this offseason," Miller writes in his analysis. "Mac Jones' fifth-year option decision is also coming this offseason, and after he was benched for Bailey Zappe, all signs point toward a new QB1 in New England for 2024.

"Maye is a powerful thrower at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, with the arm talent to stretch the field vertically and the mobility to threaten on the ground. There are times his ball placement can be inconsistent, but his supporting cast at North Carolina did him few favors there. Maye -- who is declaring for the draft -- has the traits of a true franchise quarterback."

Maye completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 3,608 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. He also tallied 449 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. Maye's stats were down compared to his 2022 campaign, but the North Carolina did have injuries on offense and didn't have its best wideout -- Devontez Walker -- to start the year.

Maye announced Monday that he will not play in the Tar Heels' bowl game and will declare for the draft.

There are other quarterbacks besides Maye who the Patriots could consider taking in the first round. USC's Caleb Williams is likely going No. 1 overall, but Washington's Michael Penix Jr., Oregon's Bo Nix and LSU's Jayden Daniels also are likely to hear their name called on Day 1 of the draft.

The Patriots have many different positions they must bolster in the offseason, but until they get the quarterback right, it'll be hard to make substantial progress toward being an AFC contender again. And with such a strong QB draft class coming up, the time to make an investment in the sport's most important position is right now.

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