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The Patriots' biggest steals, coming in the 2024 NFL Draft


Led by first-round quarterback Drake Maye, the New England Patriots ultimately made eight selections in the 2024 NFL Draft. The initial reaction to the team's lesson was largely positive.

Time will tell if that optimism is warranted, and if the Patriots' selections will prove their worth relative to their draft position. That will ultimately decide whether New England's draft class will be considered a success, and this is something that won't be properly assessed for a few years.

At this point, the value question – often used as a basis for post-concept analysis – can only be answered in theory. This is exactly where Arif Hasan's consensus great governance comes into the picture. It puts together 101 big boards to see how the design community views the prospects.

Obviously there are differences between these boards and the boards used by NFL teams; To start with, the clubs have much more information. That said, the comparison between these two scouting spheres mainly illustrates where differences exist and where for some reason there can be a dissonance between the public evaluation of a player and how the league views him.

With that in mind, let's take a look at how the Patriots' 2024 draft class compares to the consensus big board.

QB Drake Maye (North Carolina)

Choose: 1-3 | Big board consensus: 4 | Difference: +1

Drake Maye, one of the top prospects in this year's class regardless of position, was drafted almost exactly where the consensus board said he should be drafted. He finished in fourth place there and came off the board third overall. At this point in the draft, where teams are dealing with promising prospects, a small difference in player perception versus investment reality doesn't matter.

WR Ja'Lynn Polk (Washington)

Choose: 2-37 | Big board consensus: 62 | Difference: +25

The Patriots planned to draft Polk at age 34 but realized they could still get him three spots later, allowing a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers to move down. To some extent, that line of thinking fits with the consensus board's stance: Polk was viewed as a late second-rounder rather than an early starter; That New England has a higher grade on him than other teams isn't unrealistic either (thus the confidence that they would still take him down after the trade).

Was Polk a reach, though? Not necessary. He was the last in a cluster of wideouts drafted — six receivers were picked between No. 28 and No. 37 — and the best option available at the time relative to the consensus board (aside from Adonai Mitchell, with whom the teams apparently had some problems). ).

From that perspective, it makes sense that the Patriots would draft him a bit too much: another trade down or waiting until the third round to go WR could have resulted in only players at least one level lower being available.

OT Caedan Wallace (Penn State)

Choose: 3-68 | Big board consensus: 186 | Difference: +118

This is where things get interesting, and the league seemingly has a different opinion on a player. Wallace was picked 118 spots ahead of his position on the consensus board, making him the highest overdraft in the first three rounds.

So what's going on? If we look at the variance score in Wallace's ranking of major boards (101.3), we can see that there was not much disagreement between the producers of those 101 boards used as a base (100 is the average, anything higher means polarization, anything lower means consensus).

There are two ways to look at this. First, the Patriots may have been a little panicky at this point in the draft after seeing a run on offensive tackles earlier in the third round: between pick No. 55 and their selection, four OTs had come off the field, leaving the locker relatively empty behind. which was a major need for New England heading into the draft.

Then again, the team might have simply given him a higher grade given the specific projection for Wallace within the offense. We know he will be used at left tackle after playing his entire career at Penn State on the right side, so confidence in that projection on the team's part may have also played a role in the choice.

G Layden Robinson (Texas A&M)

Choose: 4-103 | Big board consensus: 175 | Difference: +72

The Robinson pick is similar to the one above in that it was inconsistent with the consensus board; the Texas A&M interior lineman was a reach in that regard. However, there is a difference between him and Caedan Wallace.

Robinson was the only guard or center picked within a roster spot of 30. New England clearly wasn't forced to take him because of a run at the position. What we can also see is that the variance score of 83.6 points to a player who was generally viewed as a late fifth-round value.

So why did the Patriots draft him at No. 103? We can only speculate, but the above points about projection in a given offensive system likely play a role in the mix. Additionally, New England may have heard whispers about another club drafting him in a similar ranking and may have been afraid of missing out.

We don't know the motivation behind the selection, but it is more unclear than, say, the choices of Ja'Lynn Polk or Caedan Wallace.

WR Javon Baker (Central Florida)

Choose: 110 | Big board consensus: 95 | Difference: -15

For the first time so far, a selection that can be classified as a “bargain” compared to the consensus board. That said, the 15-selection difference between his rank and final draft position is relatively small and consistent with his variance score (112.5). Baker all but went were some of the less enthusiastic projections who thought he would go.

His selection also happened in a relative vacuum. Four wideouts were drafted between No. 100 and No. 113, but it wasn't necessarily a run like the rush to get offensive tackles in Round 2.

CB Marcellas Dial (South Carolina)

Choose: 6-180 | Big board consensus: 241 | Difference: +61

Another player with a low variance score (83.6) who was drafted nearly two rounds ahead of his projection on the consensus board. The previous few picks had loosened some defensive backs, but it appears Dial was simply the highest-rated player on New England's board at the time.

Why he was rated so much higher than his rank in the big board — which would have suggested he was a borderline free agent — is anyone's guess. That said, it's easy to call Dial a “reach” based on this, but at this point in the round, teams are essentially looking for developable features and coins worth having; for New England, the South Carolina product appears to be one such player.

QB Joe Milton III (Tennessee)

Choose: 6-193 | Big board consensus: 185 | Difference: -8

Milton is another pick that the entire draft community, both within the NFL and beyond, was pretty much in agreement on. He went just eight picks below his big board projection, and within three picks when looking at the boards ranked by raters and projectors: he ranked 190th on both, with his variance score of 94.3 indicating relative agreement.

The big-armed Tennessee QB is a project, and everyone viewed his draft vision the same way.

TE Jaheim Bell (Florida State)

Choose: 7-231 | Big board consensus: 149 | Difference: -82

From a pure steal vs. reach perspective, Bell certainly falls into the former category after landing two and a half rounds behind his projection in New England. The question is how was this possible?

Based on each team repeatedly passing him up on his projected rank based on hints towards the league, simply viewing him as a less clear projection than those on the outside. His relatively pedestrian athletic numbers or the fact that he is more of a move and H-back option than a traditional inline tight end may have contributed to this.

This also shows up when splitting the consensus board between evaluators and forecasters: Bell was ranked 138th overall in the first group, but only 181st in the second – indicating that the competition is indeed lower on him as a potential candidate.

Ultimately, he and the other seven players mentioned above are all in the same boat. There were reasons why players left the board in certain spots compared to the consensus board, even if they don't all seem obvious.

Ultimately, a debate between steals and reaches can only judge outside choices. However, we must be aware of the fact that teams have their own evaluations and individual, prospect and club-specific factors that determine player qualities – something that is impossible to integrate from an external perspective.

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