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Patriots NFL Draft Recap: Did New England Miss Out on No. 1 WR Due to Panthers-Bills Collusion?

Ayush Juneja

Patriots NFL Draft Recap: Did New England Miss Out on No. 1 WR Due to Panthers-Bills Collusion?

The 2024 NFL Draft is finally over, and the Patriots are surely pleased with their signings. While many expected them to tank the draft, the six-time Super Bowl-winning team found players that could fill the holes in their squad. Though they are still in the rebuilding phase, the team looks optimistic in the post-Belichick era. After signing a franchise QB in Drake Maye, they even went out and got his weapons in WR Ja’lynn Polk and Javon Baker with 37th and 110th overall picks, respectively.

After drafting 8 players, like many other teams, they snagged up several undrafted free agents. As per, they signed LBs Jett Bush and Jontrey Hunter, tight end Jacob Warren, CBs Kaleb Ford-Dement and Mikey Victor, RB DeShaun Fenwick, offensive tackle Zuri Henry, edge John Morgan, safety Dell Puttus, and center Charles Turner. The squad looks ready to lock horns against other AFC powerhouses.

However, there is a rumor going around that Polk wasn’t their first choice in the draft. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN, the Pats tried to trade up from 34th to the Bills’ 32nd pick. However, Buffalo chose to do business with the Panthers and traded down to the 33rd spot. Carolina drafted Xavier Legette, and the Bills got Keon Coleman. It seems both Legette and Coleman were on New England’s radar ahead of Polk, with the South Carolina receiver being a top priority. The Patriots then had no choice but to trade down from 34th to 37th to bolster their receiving room.

The Bills’ unwillingness to trade with their divisional rivals is understandable. However, they did trade picks with conference rivals, the Chiefs, who went on to draft Xavier Worthy 28th overall.

Moreover, it’s worth discussing how the Pats have decided to deviate from the past strategy of not investing heavily in offensive players for their QBs and have decided to prioritize the offense, something Belichick never did.

The Old New England Patriots vs. the New

The Patriots, under Jerod Mayo and Elliot Wolf, went out and did what Belichick never did; invest wholeheartedly in the offense. With their picks, they drafted 5 offensive players, i.e., QB Drake Maye (1st Round), WR Ja’lynn Polk (2nd Round), OT Caedan Wallace (3rd Round), guard Layden Robinson (4th Round), and WR Baker (6th Round). They even added another weapon in the QB room: Joe Milton.

Besides that, they got Tight End Warren, RB Fenwick, an OT Henry, and LSU’s Center Turner as undrafted free agents. That’s 9 offensive players in three days. Under Belichick, however, the offense was never a priority, as they hardly drafted receivers in the early rounds. As per Ringer, from 2003 to 2016, only seven wideouts came to Foxborough after being drafted in the first four rounds.

Drafting Polk with the 37th overall pick was their highest-drafted wideout since they drafted N’Keal Harry in 2019 (32nd overall). Moreover, only three receivers have gotten 1000 yards for them over the years — Randy Moss, who was traded for a 4th-round pick, Wes Welker, who was signed as a free agent, and Julian Edelman, who was drafted in the 7th round as a QB. The list goes from three to four, if you include Gronk in it.

Throughout Bill’s era, the Pats struggled to draft receivers. During all those years, they let receivers like Anquan Boldin, Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, Keenan Allen, A.J. Brown, and DK Metcalf slip out of their hands. It seems Mayo and Wolf have learned from the past and know the realities of today’s NFL. They also don’t have Brady to get the best out of below-par receivers. They were willing to trade up to get the best offensive weapons available when, in the past, Bill would have traded down or would have picked another average receiver.

While Drake Maye is unlikely to take many snaps this season, he has a season to get himself with his future weapons and build chemistry with them. So when he takes over in 2025, the transition will be easy. The Pats are building a perfect environment for their QBs to succeed, something they never did for Mac Jones or any other QB after Brady.

Post Edited By:Samnur Reza

About the author

Ayush Juneja

Ayush Juneja


Ayush Juneja is an NFL Journalist at the SportsRush. New to Gridiron, he has been following the sport for past 9 months and has authored over 400 articles so far. As a sports enthusiast and a true adrenaline junkie, he finds the physical side of sports to be more thrilling and engaging. A big fan of Liverpool F.C., he now roots for another red team in San Francisco 49ers and would love to see a match at Levi's Stadium and Michigan Stadium. American culture and politics fascinates him and would love to experience it first hand.

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