Quarterback Drake Maye is introduced at Gillette Stadium after being drafted by the New England Patriots. Nick O’Malley/MassLive.com

Minutes after the Patriots selected quarterback Drake Maye third overall in the 2024 NFL Draft, Jerod Mayo made it very clear his rookie quarterback is not guaranteed a starting job in Week 1.

The new New England head coach even reiterated the point later in his post-first-round press conference, saying, “We’re not sitting here saying that Drake is our starting quarterback.”

But Mayo also said that if Maye can beat out veteran quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was signed in free agency as a potential bridge starter or mentor, through coaching and hard work then, “he has a chance to go out there and really – to really play at a high level.”

Those would be strong words from Mayo’s predecessor. But one thing we’ve learned early in Mayo’s tenure as head coach is that he’s quicker to dole out praise than Bill Belichick.

In asking scouts and executives around the NFL how they view Maye’s ceiling if he’s thrust into a starting role in Year 1, it’s not out of the question that Maye can start in Week 1. Just last season, the three quarterbacks selected in the top four picks of the 2023 NFL Draft – Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson – started the season.

In 2021, Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones all started, and in 2020, Joe Burrow started Week 1. One AFC East scout believed that Lawrence’s rookie season was a good place to set Maye’s ceiling.


“If he starts, I’d say something like Trevor Lawrence’s rookie year, in terms of stats,” he said. “Probably more TD’s than that, but that’s the ballpark.”

Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, completed 59.6% of his passes for 3,641 yards with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions while going 3-14 as a starter.

An AFC North scout also set expectations for Maye around Lawrence’s rookie season.

“I think he rides ups and downs, for sure, but ultimately ends up having a solid year where you see a lot of good potential,” he said. “Somewhere between Lawrence in 2021 and Tua (Tagovailoa) in 2022.”

He expected around 3,500 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for Maye. Tagovailoa, the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, entered the league in a similar situation as Maye with Ryan Fitzpatrick in place as a bridge starter. Tagovailoa started nine games, went 6-3, completed 64.1% of his passes and threw for 1,814 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.

A second AFC East scout, who had Maye ranked as the No. 2 QB in the draft behind Caleb Williams, is optimistic.


“I think he can be pretty good as a rookie,” he said. “There’s gonna be some growing pains, but if it comes together he’ll be good.”

That same scout believes Maye is a quarterback the team can win because of, not just with. He also noted Maye is more physically impressive than the Patriots’ starters over the last three seasons – Jones, Brian Hoyer and Bailey Zappe.

An AFC West executive had lower expectations, saying he couldn’t envision Maye “setting the world on fire” in Year 1. That being said, he said it was hard to predict given the Patriots’ new coaching staff and roster changes.

The Patriots brought on board offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, quarterbacks coach T.C. McCartney and senior offensive assistant Ben McAdoo. They’ll have new starters at “X” wide receiver and left tackle, brought in running back Antonio Gibson, tight end Austin Hooper and offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor in free agency, and drafted wide receivers Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker, offensive linemen Caedan Wallace and Layden Robinson and tight end Jaheim Bell.

A senior AFC North executive believes Maye will be solid as a rookie but, the “supporting cast is the biggest thing that’ll hold him back.”

Players like Polk and Baker have high upside but could experience their own growing pains acclimating to starting roles as rookies. And the top options at left tackle, Okorafor and Wallace, have both played a lot more right tackle in recent years. Okorafor hasn’t started at left tackle since college. Wallace hasn’t started at the position since high school.


But Okorafor was drafted by the Steelers as a left tackle before moving to, and settling into, right tackle. Wallace was blocked by Jets first-round pick Olu Fashanu on the left side.

Finally, a third AFC East scout had the highest ceiling of all for Maye, believing his ceiling is that of “a difference maker that gets the Patriots back into the playoff conversation.” That’s high praise for a rookie joining a team that went 4-13 last season.

Realistically, however, that scout said that while the Patriots addressed many of their needs this offseason, they still need to fix even more “to get to a real place where they allow him to truly be successful as a Year 1 starter.”

Since 2014, there have been 33 rookie quarterbacks to start at least eight games. Jones ranks second behind only Dak Prescott among those 33 QBs in passing success rate as a rookie. Bills quarterback Josh Allen, whom Maye has compared himself to, ranks sixth lowest. So, rookie performance isn’t truly indicative of future success.

THE 2023 NFL season marked the first that NFL players were allowed to wear the No. 0. Last season, however, no one on the Patriots’ roster took up the honor. After getting drafted in the first round, Christian Gonzalez wore No. 6 for his first NFL season.

This offseason, however, he made the switch to No. 0 and will become the first player in Patriots franchise history to don the number.


When he transferred to Oregon, he wanted to wear No. 3. That was the number he wore in high school and then at his first collegiate stop, Colorado. The problem was that No. 3 was in use with defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus. That’s what led him to the No. 0. At first, Gonzalez wasn’t thrilled.

“I got it in college. It wasn’t really my first choice. I wanted to wear No. 3,” Gonzalez said this week. “Three was the number I wore in high school and sophomore year of college, I transferred and 3 was taken, so they said 0 was an option. I honestly didn’t like it at first until they started playing with Gonzo, Zero, and Oregon. I put it on and really liked it.”

Gonzalez declined the option to switch to No. 3.

“I haven’t worn three in two years. I wanted zero,” Gonzalez said. “Zero, I could be the first Patriot to wear it. That’s cool.”

GM SEARCH: Panthers vice president of football administration Samir Suleiman is interviewing with the Patriots as part of their search for a new personnel leader in their front office, according to reports.

Director of scouting Eliot Wolf, who led the Patriots’ front office all offseason, is widely seen as the favorite to get the job. However, by opening a search, the Patriots are required to satisfy league hiring rules; specifically the Rooney Rule, which mandates at least two in-person interviews with external minority and/or female candidates.

Suleiman has worked in Carolina since 2020 and served as the Panthers’ top contract negotiator. He previously spent seven years in Pittsburgh as the Steelers’ football administration coordinator from 2013-2019 and 10 seasons with the Rams as director of football administration (2000-2009).

It’s possible the Patriots could hire one or both executives to other front-office positions underneath Wolf, should Wolf maintain his roster control and earn a new title. Suleiman and Hunt are the only known external candidates in this search, which began with three external minority candidates reportedly turning them down. The Patriots have previously used coordinator searches to pursue assistant coaches who were passed over for the coordinator job.

DEMARIO DOUGLAS, the Patriots’ second-year wideout, explained his decision to change jersey numbers to No. 3 by saying it’s the same number he wore in middle school, high school and college. The number, he said Tuesday, honors the “three strong ladies” who raised him: his mother, grandmother and great grandmother.

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