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Patriots will meet with top 3 quarterbacks at NFL combine as Eliot Wolf details evaluation process

Sports Final: Jerod Mayo's staff is introduced and what the Patriots will be looking for at NFL Comb
Sports Final: Jerod Mayo's staff is introduced and what the Patriots will be looking for at NFL Comb 06:54

FOXBORO -- Armed with the third overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots will meet with all three of the top quarterback prospects -- USC's Caleb Williams, North Carolina's Drake Maye, and LSU's Jayden Daniels -- at this week's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. And when it comes time to potentially take one of those players in late April, it will be Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf making that selection.

 But that selection will only come after an extremely collaborative process throughout the pre-draft rigmarole, which Wolf detailed Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium as he spoke with reporters for the first time since New England's massive offseason makeover. Wolf, who originally joined the Patriots as a consultant in 2020 under Bill Belichick, said that everything will be done in a collaborative fashion in Foxboro. 

But he made it clear that he'll be the one ultimately making the team's draft picks. Chances are the first draft card that Wolf submits for the Patriots will have the name of a quarterback on it, but the team has a long way to go before determining which player they want to lead the franchise into the future. 

So far, Wolf likes what he has seen from the top passers in this year's draft class.

"I think it's a really good year for quarterbacks," Wolf said Tuesday. "They all look like they're really tough guys. That is obviously great at any position, but at the quarterback position especially."

Meeting with players at the combine is just part of the process, and more in-depth interviews will follow leading up to the draft. Wolf said it will be imperative for the team to ask the right questions whenever they get their chance with meet with these quarterbacks. 

"We have to determine who could handle being the quarterback of the New England Patriots," he said.

How Patriots will evaluate quarterbacks before the NFL Draft

The evaluation process will be extensive for New England, as Wolf highlighted the new player grading system the Patriots will use going forward. The franchise will focus on playing younger players and developing them from within. It's an approach that Wolf was a part of during his time with the Green Bay Packers and one he hopes to emulate in New England.

Having a franchise quarterback will greatly determine whether or not that approach works with the Patriots. And Wolf fully understands that teams need to have top talent at that position in order to win.

"When you look throughout the league, most of the quarterbacks are first rounders. I think there's exceptions to be had," he said, mentioning Dallas' Dak Prescott, San Francisco's Brock Purdy, and a former 199th overall pick named Tom Brady. "But I think just the league-wide understanding of how important that position is, and how important it is to have somebody there that can help you win games and get over the hump has changed league-wide."

A major part of that is the quarterback's ability to not just throw the football accurately, but also to be a leader in the locker room.

"Being someone that can elevate his teammates, someone that your teammates want to play for," explained Wolf. "I think that's an extremely underrated thing that people don't really talk about that much. Leadership's important, and obviously, physical talent. We wouldn't be talking about these guys if they weren't physically talented." 

Do Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe have a future with Patriots?

The elephant in the room is Mac Jones, whom the Patriots drafted 15th overall just three years ago. After a solid rookie year where he displayed some signs that he could become a franchise QB, Jones took massive steps back in each of the last two seasons. He was frustrated throughout his sophomore campaign with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as his offensive coaches, and then continued to struggle last season with Bill O'Brien as his offensive coordinator.

With a new regime in charge in New England and a high draft pick at their disposal, Jones' future with the Patriots is likely over. Backup Bailey Zappe, who took over when Jones was benched for good in early December, likely has an uphill battle as well.

But Wolf wouldn't necessarily close the door on either of the quarterbacks presently on the New England roster remaining with the team.

"I'd say there's a lot of options on the table," he said. "I'm glad you asked about Mac and Bailey. We're not going to be a program that's talking about these guys through the media. We're gong to do what is best for the team behind the scenes."

However, Wolf did take a bit of a shot at Jones when he was asked about the importance of a quarterback's body language. Jones let his frustration get the best of his several times over the last two seasons, leading to some demonstrative outbursts towards his teammates and coaches on the sidelines.

Whoever the Patriots tab to be their next quarterback, Wolf doesn't want to see them acting like that on the field.

"Body language on the field is very important at that position. You don't want a guy that's throwing his hands up after a bad play or you can see him physically pointing at somebody," he said. "Body language is important. Everyone is looking toward the quarterback."

Based on that comment, it certainly sounds like the Patriots will be moving on from Jones this offseason. 

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