It would be foolish to argue that we knew what Bill Belichick was thinking entering each draft cycle during his tenure with the New England Patriots, but we at least had a solid idea.

That’s what we’d like to think, anyway.

Belichick, much like everyone else, had specific traits he’d look for in prospects. He didn’t always follow the tendencies that cropped up during his two-plus decade stint in New England, but it was always clear one person was making the final decision for the Patriots.

Those days are gone, though. Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo and lead executive Eliot Wolf will combine to construct New England’s roster. Alex Van Pelt and DeMarcus Covington, looking to put their spin on the Patriots’ offense and defense, respectively, will have input as well. It’ll be a collaborative effort, that should lead to a fairly big change in the way New England approaches the 2024 NFL Draft as opposed to previous years.

Story continues below advertisement

We could sit back and watch things unfold, but where’s the fun in that?

In the relatively short time that Mayo, Wolf, Van Pelt and Covington have been in their current positions, we’ve gotten a glimpse into what they’re looking for. That’s given us an idea of the prospects that might fit specific traits that are of interest to New England. Let’s take a look at some of those guys.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington

Van Pelt was asked about traits he looks for in a quarterback in his first meeting with the media earlier this week and dropped a few buzzwords on us. The 53-year-old wants a signal-caller who is “smart, tough and a leader.” That sounds a lot like Penix.

Penix was praised for his ability as a leader throughout his couple seasons at Washington, using his two extra seasons of eligibility to bring the program within one win of a national championship. He’s also tough as nails, having undergone multiple season-ending surgeries only to return and have his best year as a sixth-year player.

Story continues below advertisement

QB Jayden Daniels, LSU

Daniels has all of those traits, as well. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner made 55 starts across five seasons, spending time learning multiple offenses at Arizona State and LSU. His toughness is on full display every time you watch him, as he bounces back up from some devastating hits. He was also named captain for the Tigers, who put together an entire website praising his abilities as a leader.

He’s also likely to be “the best available player for the biggest need on the team,” which is exactly what Mayo said the Patriots were looking for with their No. 3 pick.

Daniels and Penix both fit, but would cost drastically different prices.

LB Payton Wilson, NC State

If Covington is looking for his defense to be “physical, aggressive … and really attack the ball and take the ball away from the offense,” which he’s now stated on multiple occasions, there are few better options than Wilson.

Story continues below advertisement

Wilson is an extremely lengthy, rangy linebacker who has a nose for the football. He racked up seven interceptions, 15.0 sacks and 48.0 tackles for loss in his career at NC State, and would immediately become the best playmaker on the second level of the Patriots’ defense. They have a good linebacking corps, but Wilson would allow them to get even better.

OL Dominick Puni, Kansas

In prognosticating what Wolf will target in his first draft with control over roster decisions, draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes two things will stand out. It’s believed Wolf could follow the tendencies of his hall-of-fame father, Ron, and draft “offensive linemen that are versatile” and “wide receivers who have kick return backgrounds that are really, really good after the catch.”

Puni, who played tackle at Kansas but moved inside and dominated at guard during Senior Bowl week, fits the mold of offensive lineman mentioned. He’d likely best be utilized at right tackle for the Patriots, but having the ability to slide in and cover for injuries is invaluable in the modern NFL.

WR Roman Wilson, Michigan

Wilson fits into that second description, not necessarily because he’s a great return man, but because he’s been compared to Packers wide receiver Jayden Reed. Wilson is tough with the ball in his hands and will blow people away with his short-area quickness.

Story continues below advertisement

WR Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky

Corley didn’t return many punts or kicks in college, but he is far and away the best runner after the catch in this entire draft. If anyone is going to get a Deebo Samuel comparison, it’s Corley, who will run around or through defenders. He’s the best gadget option in the class and should be available at the end of Day 2.

Featured image via Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports Images