Someone once said that from a fan's perspective, drafting offensive linemen in the first round is akin to receiving socks on Christmas. It's practical, your team probably needs it, you'll use it, but it's pretty hard to get excited about.
Well, Patriots fans could be getting socks for Christmas at this April's NFL Draft.
Per Jeff Howe of The Athletic, if Eliot Wolf is running the draft process, the Patriots will strongly consider drafting a left tackle with the third overall pick. Wolf is currently the director of scouting for New England. Prior to Foxborough, he served as the Cleveland Browns assistant general manager from 2018-19.
Now, Howe's reporting presents a massive caveat. Perhaps it won't be Wolf's show on draft night, and that speculation is essentially rendered moot.
There is still significant ambiguity surrounding the player personnel department in New England, but Wolf was reportedly "driving the bus" on the hiring of offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt to perhaps "generate some power in the organization".
With head coach Jerod Mayo's 2024 coordinators set, there is an expectation that he will now turn his attention to the general manager situation. More clarity on the power structure could be coming in the near future.
The overwhelming consensus is that Notre Dame tackle Joe Alt would be the selection at three in this scenario. Alt is ranked as Daniel Jeremiah's number nine prospect. The 20-year-old was a finalist for the Outland Trophy this season, which is awarded to the best offensive lineman/interior defensive lineman in college football, while also unanimously selected to the 2023 College Football All-America Team.
Alt's father, John, was a first-round pick himself and spent thirteen seasons at left tackle of the Kansas City Chiefs, earning two Pro Bowl nods and an All-Pro selection. Jeremiah's scouting report of the younger Alt can be found here.
If the Patriots become dead set on drafting Alt, then this could perhaps also open up the possibility of trading down in the draft and acquiring additional draft capital from a team eyeing a quarterback such as Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels with New England's third overall slot.
Out of the four NFL teams left standing this season (Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, and Detroit Lions), three of those teams have a first-round left tackle. Ronnie Stanley of the Ravens was taken sixth overall, Trent Williams of the Niners was selected fourth overall, and Taylor Decker of the Lions was the 16th pick. Detroit's right tackle, Penei Sewell, was also picked seventh overall.
Offensive line talk is never sexy to the average fan, there has been a proven model for success in recent years to build from the trenches out before finishing the rebuild with skill positions. The Philadelphia Eagles have been one of the best embodiments of this blueprint.
If New England does ultimately select Alt with their third overall selection, that would trigger a series of follow-up questions: What do they do about the quarterback position? Will they move down in the draft to select Alt and acquire more picks? What does that return look like? How does this impact the team's plans in free agency (especially with the salary cap space at their disposal)?
Drafting a tackle with the third overall pick also hits Patriots fans harder than it would perhaps another franchise, as New England hasn't drafted this high since taking Drew Bledsoe first over thirty years ago. Many of the fans who have become infatuated with the Patriots dynasty weren't even alive for that pick.
But this is the new phase of the Patriots life cycle, and eventually fans will have to work through the stages of grief and accept the new reality. They might have to make their peace with socks for Christmas
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