The Patriots almost certainly will come away from the 2024 NFL Draft without a quarterback in hand, and regardless of who that guy is, he’ll need someone to throw the ball to.

New England has struggled to find consistency at wide receiver for a staggeringly long time, and despite serviceable options in Kendrick Bourne and DeMario Douglas, that’s not enough. The Patriots need to give their next quarterback a wealth of reliable options.

Does it need to be a true No. 1 guy? That would be great, but no. The Patriots’ biggest issue at receiver is a lack of reliable depth, with Tyquan Thornton, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kayshon Boutte closer to the roster bubble than becoming legitimate contributors.

The Patriots need to take a couple of throws at the wide receiver dart board, and they essentially could come anywhere in the draft.

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Let’s identify which prospects, from the first round to the seventh, could be targets for New England come April 25.

Round 1, No. 23: Adonai Mitchell
If the Patriots select a wide receiver with the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, everyone should be fired. Yes, it’s a need, but there’s no chance Marvin Harrison Jr. or Malik Nabers would be their best selves in an offense without a left tackle and Jacoby Brissett tossing the pigskin — with all due respect.

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New England can’t prioritize wideout without gaining extra capital, so the only world we see a first-round wide receiver joining the Patriots is following a trade. In this scenario, the Minnesota Vikings move up to No. 3 and the Patriots grab No. 11 and No. 23. Adonai Mitchell is the pick, giving whoever lines up under a center a true top-flight option on the outside.

Round 2, No. 34: Ladd McConkey
McConkey joining the Patriots would be the catalyst to a bunch of obvious jokes, but he’s better than anyone on the roster. It’d be a miracle if he lasts to the second round, especially with the Kansas City Chiefs in prime position to grab him at the back end of the first round.

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McConkey’s abilities as a pure route-runner are unmatched. He’s probably the best option a rookie quarterback could have in this class, and New England has been keeping an eye on him.

Round 3, No. 68: Malachi Corley
You want a wide receiver willing to run through someone twice his size? Corley’s your guy.

Corley comes from a smaller school, but he plays big. The Western Kentucky product is a slot option, so there’s some overlap there with Douglas in New England, but he’s so much more dynamic and has traits the Patriots typically seek. He’s best on gadget stuff — screens, slants, misdirection — but is also solid enough in the middle to contribute early in his career.

Round 4, No. 103: Brenden Rice
McConkey and Corley are slot receivers, but their talent supersedes any of New England’s current options. If the Patriots wait until Day 3, however, they’re not getting anyone who will immediately be better than Douglas, so the focus should shift to outside guys.

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Rice is someone whose stock rose playing with Caleb Williams, but he’s still a damn good player. He grew up learning from someone many believe to be the greatest receiver of all time — his dad, Jerry. He’s a safe option.

Round 5, No. 137: Bub Means
Means played for Patriots assistant wide receivers coach Tiquan Underwood at Pittsburgh, and the more we watch him, he looks like the perfect late-round option for New England. Means is fast and physical and makes his bones by bullying opponents from multiple alignments. He runs solid routes, has solid hands and is… well, solid. You can’t miss with this guy in the fifth round.

Round 6, No. 180: Xavier Weaver
If you watched Colorado this season, Deion Sanders, Shedeur Sanders, Travis Hunter and Cormani McClain probably stood out — for positive and negative reasons. Xavier Weaver, meanwhile, was the team’s MVP. He transferred in, led the Buffaloes in every receiving category and helped them pull off an upset over TCU in Week 1. If he didn’t have surgery earlier this offseason, he’d go much earlier than the 180th pick.

He might still go that high. Who knows?

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Round 7, No. 193: Dylan Laube
“Laube isn’t a wide receiver,” you say, not having the needed creativity to understand why we selected him in this spot.

Laube, his college head coach Ricky Santos and play-caller Drew Belcher all told he could play receiver. We believe them.

Featured image via Ben Queen/USA TODAY Sports Images