April 15, 2024

Three best fits for Patriots in first round of 2024 NFL Draft

The New England Patriots hold the third overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, which is set to begin on April 25.

New England has officially entered a new era in franchise history and the team’s future will largely be shaped by who it selects with its first-round pick. With that in mind, here are the three prospects who are the best fits for the Patriots in the first round.

Quarterback Drake Maye, North Carolina 

After officially pulling the plug on the disastrous Mac Jones experiment, the Patriots have a relatively simple decision to make with their third overall pick and that’s selecting a quarterback. While LSU’s Heisman Trophy-winning signal-caller Jayden Daniels is an option until he is not, since FanDuel Sportsbook projects him to be drafted second overall (-125), we’ll put the spotlight on Maye. 

For the majority of the past two years, Maye was widely regarded as the No. 2 quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft. However, the late rise of Daniels and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, coupled with a bit of prospect fatigue, has caused Maye’s ranking within this year’s quarterback class to come into question.

It’s fair to say that Maye is more of a project than initially believed, but the former Tar Heel is only 21 years old and still has an immense ceiling. After all, Maye was the ACC passing leader in each of the last two seasons, throwing for 7,929 yards, 62 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in that span.

Considering that the Patriots added Jacoby Brissett this offseason, Maye could be the ideal QB prospect to select, as he could sit for a season while they assemble a supporting cast capable of helping a young signal-caller succeed. 

Wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State 

In the event that New England has its sights set on a quarterback it ultimately can’t land and it doesn’t want to trade the third overall pick, Harrison would be the best alternative. Even though LSU’s Malik Nabers has been receiving some buzz recently, Harrison –- son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison Sr. – is the top wideout in this year’s draft. 

A four-star recruit coming out of high school, the 6-foot-3, 209-pounder broke out during the 2022 season, hauling in 77 passes for 1,263 yards and 14 touchdowns. Despite catching passes from a quarterback inferior to Ohio State’s 2022 starter C.J. Stroud this past season in Kyle McCord, Harrison still enjoyed a dominant season, racking up 67 receptions for 1,211 yards and 14 touchdowns. 

Possessing a rare combination of size, speed and elite productivity, Harrison is unquestionably one of the best wide receiver prospects in recent memory. If New England decided to select him, Harrison would instantly step in and be the featured weapon in the team’s offense and a key cornerstone for its rebuild. 

Offensive tackle Olu Fashanu, Penn State 

Although it’s unlikely, if the Patriots trade down for the Minnesota Vikings’ Nos. 11 and 23 overall picks, which they did in Matt Miller of ESPN’s latest mock draft, they should strongly consider addressing their offensive line.

Last season, New England surrendered the ninth-most sacks in the NFL (48) and the team just lost former starting left tackle Trent Brown to the Bengals in free agency. The Patriots did ink former Steelers OT Chukwuma Okorafor to a one-year deal to potentially be Brown’s replacement, though they desperately need a long-term answer at the position.

Fashanu, a first-team All-American last season, could be the solution, assuming he falls out of the top 10. A two-year starter at Penn State, the 6-foot-6, 312-pounder allowed just 17 pressures, one QB hit and zero sacks during his collegiate career.

Entering the 2023 season, Fashanu was considered a potential top-five selection, but due to the high demand for quarterbacks, he’s projected to land outside the top 10. If the Patriots do trade back, de facto GM Eliot Wolf would be wise to capitalize on Fashanu’s declining stock.