FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — A smattering of Patriots fans stood outside the gates to Gillette Stadium on Friday hoping to catch a glimpse of the franchise’s latest attempt to find its next franchise quarterback.

Drake Maye, who was selected third overall by New England in the opening round of Thursday’s NFL draft was about to meet with reporters for photos on the field.

Fans were already wearing Patriots’ Maye jerseys, complete with the No. 10 that he wore in college at North Carolina.

That number, coincidentally, was also worn by former New England quarterback Mac Jones, who was traded earlier this offseason. It led a few of the fans to repurpose their old Jones No. 10 Patriots jerseys by placing tape over his name and writing in Maye’s.

Homemade ingenuity aside, it was emblematic of just how hopeful New England’s fanbase is that this latest move at the position — and this draft — will be the one to stabilize a team that’s gone just 29-38 since the exit of future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.

“I’m glad I’m going to an organization that knows how to win, has done it before and I’m just ready to get things going,” Maye said.

Time will tell if that was an empty promise or prophecy.

Maye’s selection was part of a relatively straightforward three days of picks for New England, which entered hoping to fill a variety of needs on a team that finished 4-13 in what turned out to be longtime coach Bill Belichick’s final season with the team.

Director of scouting Eliot Wolf has taken over the de factor general manager role once held by Belichick. Despite acknowledging receiving some trade overtures for the third pick during the draft process, Wolf was clear that they felt this rebuild need to start at filling their hole at starting quarterback and the overall offense.

New England wound up making eight picks, with seven coming on offense.

“There were different points throughout the process where there were trades, but all along we knew we were in a unique opportunity here to get a quarterback that we liked, and we were obviously able to do that,” Wolf said.

ADDING SUPPORT

Wolf made good on his promise to beef up the options at the skill positions.

Receiver has been a need for consecutive drafts and the Patriots added a pair in Washington’s Ja’Lynn Polk (second round) and UCF’s Javon Baker (fourth round).

Polk was a little bit of a surprise selection, with higher-rated options such as Georgia’s Ladd McConkey, who was selected by the Chargers after swapping the No. 37 pick for No. 34 with New England.

What Polk doesn’t have in speed (ran 4.52 40-yard dash), he makes up for with a propensity to catch passes in tight windows.

Ratings aside, Wolf said the goal going in was to add more options to the receiving group for Maye.

“I just think we need to support him in any way we can,” Wolf said. “We need to add some weapons to the offense. … We have good players already at those positions but really just increasing the depth and the competition.”

NOT JUST MAYE

Maye wasn’t the only quarterback the Patriots selected, adding Tennessee’s Joe Milton III in the sixth round.

New England’s quarterback room currently stands at five, with the incoming rookies joining Jacoby Brissett, Bailey Zappe and Nathan Rourke. While not all are expected to be on the roster by training camp, it should make for a competitive summer, according to Jerod Mayo.

“We’re in the business of trying to get good football players through the door, and Milton happens to be one of them,” Mayo said. Obviously, he understands we took a quarterback at (No.) 3 in Drake (Maye). One thing that we preach is competition. Everything is about competition, and nothing is given. All of it’s earned. That’s how we thought about the process.”

O-LINE EMPHASIS

Whenever Maye plays, he’ll need to be protected a lot better than Jones was last season when the Patriots offensive line ranked last in the NFL with a pass block win rate of just 42%.

That meant selecting back-to-back linemen in the third in fourth rounds with Penn State tackle Caedan Wallace and Texas A&M guard Layden Robinson.

The free agency departure of Trent Brown created a need at left tackle. Wallace played on the right side in college, but the Patriots believe he can shift over.

And with 2022 first-round pick and left guard Cole Strange working his way back from a knee injury, Robinson will could provide solid depth or potentially even challenge for a starting role.

___

https://apnews.com/hub/nfl-draft