Draft experts spent the last few months praising quarterback prospects with a consensus top three of Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels. Williams has always been viewed as the top signal-caller while there’s been continuous jockeying between Maye and Daniels.

The recent rise of J.J. McCarthy, however, has many believing the Michigan Man is viewed closer to the top tier than he was beforehand. Some even wonder whether McCarthy could jump Maye and/or Daniels on a team’s draft board.

While speaking to reporters Monday morning at the NFL league meetings in Orlando, Fla., first-year Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo admitted his opinion has changed regarding the degree of separation in the top tier. Mayo said the class might even have another one or two starters behind McCarthy.

“Let me tell you when I first started watching these guys, it was that three-man race,” Mayo told reporters, per the Patriots. “And now, as you continue to go to these Pro Days, bringing guys in on their 30 visits, and having time to spend with those guys to really get to know what makes them tick, there’s about five guys, honestly, that could come in and be a solid quarterback in the future.”

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Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. are viewed as the fifth- and sixth-best prospects at the quarterback position. NFL draft expert Daniel Jeremiah ranked Nix (No. 29) ahead of Penix (No. 33) on his list of top 50 prospects, which was published after the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month. Those two came in after Williams (No. 1), Maye (No. 5), Daniels (No. 6) and McCarthy (No. 21).

“I don’t want to sit here and give you names, I don’t want to give you names, but there are about five or six guys that are just very impressive,” Mayo said. “They all bring a certain skill set to the table — all skill sets that you want to see out of a quarterback.”

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Could Mayo be blowing a bit of smoke to throw teams off New England’s scent? Absolutely. It’s that time of year in the NFL, after all. But Mayo’s convictions also could be truthful.

The Patriots currently hold the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. It’s been speculated New England could take whichever of the top three signal-callers remaining — likely Maye or Daniels — falls to them after the Chicago Bears and Washington Commanders make their respective decisions.

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Mayo, however, kept the door open on a possible trade down the board. He said the Patriots are more than willing to listen to another team’s offer if that team throws a “bag” at New England. Should that be the case, the Patriots might have no choice but to bank on the depth in the quarterback class.

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