Patriots have best chance at No. 1 pick in 2025 draft, per ESPN model

Patriots have best chance at No. 1 pick in 2025 draft, per ESPN model originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

There's finally some optimism surrounding the New England Patriots after the franchise selected North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye with the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, but how much of that potential will be seen on the field during the upcoming season?

It's fair to wonder if Maye will play in the early part of the campaign, especially if the offensive line or the team in general is not playing well. Patriots general manager Eliot Wolf was in the Green Bay Packers front office for many years, and they found success by having both Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love sit for a year behind veteran quarterbacks.

Sitting Maye and allowing him to learn the offense by watching isn't a bad idea.

But if that happens, how many games will the Patriots win? Their 2024 schedule is pretty tough, especially out of the gate with matchups versus the Bengals, Seahawks, Jets, 49ers, Dolphins and Texans in the first six weeks (in that order).

ESPN's analytics recently unveiled its first Football Power Index (FPI) ranking for next season, and the Patriots are 31st, just above the last-place Carolina Panthers.

ESPN's models also give the Patriots the best chance to land the No. 1 pick in the 2025 NFL Draft.

"New England's league-topping strength of schedule combined with the FPI's skepticism regarding its roster has the model believing the Patriots are the most likely team to pick first in the 2025 NFL draft, with a 22 percent chance," ESPN's Seth Walder wrote. "The Panthers rate lower than the Patriots in the FPI, but their chance at picking No. 1 is slightly worse (21 percent)."

Here is ESPN's projected top five of next year's draft.

1. Patriots (22 percent)

2. Panthers (21 percent)

3. Broncos (12 percent)

4. Titans (seven percent)

5. Commanders (six percent)

The Patriots getting a top-five pick would be a great outcome for next season. This roster is in dire need of elite-level talent, and the best way to acquire those kinds of players is through the draft. Trading for those players or signing them in free agency is both difficult and ultra expensive.

If Maye does play as a rookie and shows real potential, and the Patriots are able to get him a franchise left tackle or a No. 1 wideout with their 2025 first-round pick, that would set up the team for long-term success. The Cincinnati Bengals drafted quarterback Joe Burrow No. 1 overall in 2020, struggled the following season and drafted elite wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase at No. 5 overall in the next draft.

Could the Patriots take a similar path back to relevance in 2024? We'll see, but as long as the team shows progress at key positions (QB, WR, OT, etc.) in 2024, it'll be OK if they lose a ton of games and wind up with another high first-round pick. Rebuilds rarely happen overnight, especially in pro football.