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NFL expert has Patriots taking elite QB prospect in first 2024 mock draft

NFL expert has Patriots taking elite QB prospect in first 2024 mock draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots need a new quarterback. Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe don't represent a bright long-term future, to say the least.

Fortunately for the Patriots, they should have a couple options available to them in the 2024 NFL Draft.

New England currently owns the No. 3 overall pick with a 2-9 record. Only the Carolina Panthers (1-10) and Arizona Cardinals (2-10) are worse, and every other team has at least four wins. So the Patriots have a very strong chance to secure at least a top-three selection.

Which quarterback makes the most sense at No. 3?

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The Athletic's Dane Brugler released his first 2024 NFL mock draft Wednesday morning, and he projects the Patriots taking North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye.

"With their quarterback situation in shambles, the Patriots have a bottom-five offense," Brugler wrote. "In his 24 years as head coach in New England, Bill Belichick has never drafted in the top five, but this season is certainly trending in that direction. That’s the bad news. The good news? This is a great draft for a quarterback-needy team to own an early pick. Maye is a young player and not without his faults, but he has promising talent and more big-time throws on his tape than any other passer in this class."

Maye and UNC struggled down the stretch. He threw just four touchdown passes with four interceptions over the last three games, and the Tar Heels went 1-2 during that stretch, which knocked them out of the top 25 in the AP poll.

Maye still had a strong season, though. He completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 3,608 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a UNC team that had a really bad defense. He has all the physical tools you want in a quarterback at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. He's also athletic enough to escape the pocket and make plays with his legs, evidenced by his 449 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground this season.

The Patriots would need to surround Maye with enough talent at the skill positions for him to be successful -- something they haven't done for Jones.

But if the Patriots do end up with the chance to take Maye or USC quarterback Caleb Williams, they can't pass it up. Quarterback is the most important position. Without a good one, your team doesn't have much of a chance, as the Patriots are finding out right now.