NFL Draft: Drake Maye goes No. 3 overall, Patriots hope he can lift them out of doldrums

New England takes another swing at signal-caller in the post-Tom Brady era

The New England Patriots tried to find a long-term replacement for Tom Brady when they drafted Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. That didn’t work.

The Patriots are hoping the next swing at solving their quarterback conundrum goes better.

New England is in a brand new era, with Jerod Mayo replacing legendary head coach Bill Belichick, and North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye is going to be a big part of that makeover. The Patriots selected Maye with the third overall pick of the NFL Draft on Thursday night.

The Patriots have fallen hard in recent seasons and are now well beyond their dynasty. That’s a reason Belichick is gone and New England had the third overall pick. The Patriots entered this year’s draft as one of the most talent-poor teams in the NFL.

Maye won’t fix everything, but the Patriots hope it’s a start.

The Patriots' selection of Drake Maye was deemed largely as positive among fan bases. (Yahoo Sports)
The Patriots' selection of Drake Maye was deemed largely as positive among fan bases. (Yahoo Sports)

For a time, there was a notion that Maye could be the top pick in the NFL Draft ahead of Caleb Williams. The Bears never seemed to waver on their choice of Williams, but there were reasons to like Maye as a top-tier prospect.

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Maye broke out during his redshirt freshman season at North Carolina in 2022. He threw for 4,321 yards and 38 touchdowns, and showed elite skills that put him on the radar of NFL teams.

Maye wasn't quite as productive in 2023, with 3,608 yards and 24 touchdowns, but the skills were still there. He has good size at 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds. The ability to run the ball was clear. And the arm strength was NFL worthy.

But as the offseason went on, there was a notion that Maye could slip in the draft. He took too many chances at times, leading to 16 interceptions his last two seasons. That was a knock on him.

There didn't seem to be too many other negatives in Maye's game, which is why he was a top prospect heading into the NFL Draft. The biggest question was where he'd end up landing.

The Patriots had a miserable offense last season. Jones didn’t work out after a promising rookie season in 2021. Bailey Zappe got some starts but he clearly wasn’t the answer either.

The Patriots still need to build up around their quarterback. They couldn’t land Calvin Ridley in free agency and didn’t do much else to add to a lackluster receiver group. There aren’t many playmakers on the Patriots offense. It will take some time to improve that side of the ball.

It’s not an ideal situation for a rookie quarterback, but the Patriots passed on the opportunity to trade down and used the third pick to get a potential franchise quarterback to build around. It was a deep quarterback draft and the Patriots got one they were comfortable with.

The last couple seasons haven't been much fun for the Patriots, who are used to championship-level football. They hope drafting Maye is the start of a return to glory.