Mel Kiper Jr. didn’t include the Patriots among his “biggest winners” from Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft, but the longtime ESPN draft guru still approved of New England’s decision to select North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye with the third overall pick.

“It should go without saying that I liked the Commanders and Patriots getting their quarterbacks of the future at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively,” Kiper wrote for after the first round. “Jayden Daniels will give a jolt to the entire Washington franchise, and he’s in a good spot to play well early. Drake Maye won’t have the same level of pass-catchers around him in New England, but he’s the type of talent to build around.”

The Chicago Bears selected Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick before Daniels and Maye landed with Washington and New England, respectively. All three could thrive at the next level, as they were widely considered the cream of this year’s quarterback crop.

Still, there’s inherent risk with every draft pick. And evaluating quarterbacks can be an especially tricky exercise. Just ask the Patriots, who traded Mac Jones to the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason just three years after selecting him with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

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That said, it’s apples and oranges. Every prospect is different, obviously, which is good news for the Patriots as it relates to this year’s first-round pick.

“I have higher grades on Maye and Daniels than I did on Mac Jones in 2021,” Kiper wrote.

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The knock on Jones at the time was that he benefited greatly from his excellent supporting cast at Alabama and didn’t have the arm talent to truly be an elite quarterback in the NFL. Prophetic in hindsight, as he wilted in Foxboro with the deck stacked against him.

Maye, despite his shortcomings, seemingly has a much higher ceiling than Jones. It’s now incumbent upon the Patriots to groom their new QB accordingly, as Maye’s development — or lack thereof — will significantly impact the franchise’s long-term fortunes.

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Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images