Tom E. Curran

With Drake Maye pick, the Patriots are betting on themselves

The work is just beginning for Eliot Wolf and Jerod Mayo in New England.

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The Patriots got the guy they wanted all along. That’s what they all say.

Would they have taken Jayden Daniels instead of Drake Maye? Doesn’t matter. And we’ll never really know.

The simple fact is, Maye is theirs for better or worse. Quite literally.

The team drafted Maye – despite his erratic footwork, hot-and-cold accuracy and shaky film in late-season games for North Carolina – because they think they can fix him.

They drafted him because, even though he’s not as dynamic as Caleb Williams or Jayden Daniels and doesn’t have the speed, fundamentals and accuracy of J.J. McCarthy, once they get done with him – fingers crossed – he’ll be better than all of them. They hope.

“Hell, if we can’t fix the footwork and slow the game down for a 21-year-old kid who’s 6-foot-4, 230 with a great arm, decent speed, guts, genuine enthusiasm for the game, a good head on his shoulders and an hour of college tape showing him do really nice things, then why are we even here?”

Can’t blame the Patriots for thinking that.

Despite Maye being the biggest “boom or bust” proposition among the five quarterbacks the Patriots brought in (tossing Michael Penix Jr. in there), passing on a player the Vikings and Giants were clamoring for would have said, “Yeah, we can’t do it. Let a capable staff with a good roster have a crack.”

So the Patriots pocketed concerns about Maye’s floor and looked at his ceiling. But they’re at least practical enough to understand they aren’t ready for Maye and Maye isn’t ready for the NFL. Not here. Not with a just-out-of-the-box coaching staff and an offense that was 31st in the league last year and didn’t do much in free agency to change that.

There were two interesting moments in Thursday night’s Eliot Wolf/Jerod Mayo press session.

The first came after Mayo alluded to Maye and veteran Jacoby Brissett and stated, “I would say we're going to compete all spring, we're going to compete during training camp, and the best player will start.”

Moments later, Mayo circled back.

“Look, let me go back a couple of questions ago,” he said. "We're not sitting here saying that Drake is our starting quarterback. I think he understands that. He understands the things that he has to get better at. With coaching and once again the hard work and the coaches that we have, the support system from ownership, I think he has a chance to go out there and really -- to really play at a high level.

“You can talk about potential all you want to. Until you reach it, it really doesn't matter. We did know the man; we know the man is a hard worker, and he's going to do everything he can to be successful.”

Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo discusses the team's plans for Drake Maye and whether or not the QB will be the starter this season.

Meanwhile, Wolf – who last week said he couldn’t comprehend the notion the Patriots didn’t have an offense to support a rookie quarterback – said, We need to add some weapons to the offense. We need to shore up the offensive line. We have good players already at those positions but really just increasing the depth and the competition. Like Jerod mentioned, that competition is going to be at every position.”

In essence, they’re all starting at zero and trying to get better together.

Wolf, with an unfilled hole at X receiver, needs to get imaginative. The Patriots have the most cap space in the league. It’s been 14 years since they had to ante up at quarterback. Maye, conceivably, is on controlled money until 2029. Miami, the worst team in the league in 2019, jetted into the NFL’s upper crust by getting Tyreek Hill for QB Tua Tagovailoa via trade. The Eagles helped themselves get to a Super Bowl by trading for A.J. Brown.

Mayo is chief executive of the football product and he’s leaning on his offensive VPs – Alex Van Pelt and Ben McAdoo especially – to help Maye approach his much-discussed ceiling.

Maye was the safest pick to make because he was the top-rated quarterback based on his upside. Even Bill Belichick, who elaborated on Maye’s deficiencies and gushed about McCarthy’s talent, had Maye as his fifth-rated player in this year's class.

Upside wins. Now the Patriots have to wring it out of their project. If they fail, they’ll be back where they were Thursday night before the end of the decade. If they get it right, they won’t get a top-five pick the painful way for a long time.

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