New England selected 12 total players in the 2023 NFL Draft, and deciding not to draft a quarterback avoids any more added speculation going into training camp in 2023.
Following the first round on Friday night, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said he "absolutely" feels the same way about Mac Jones as he did this time last year, when the former first-round pick was coming off a Pro Bowl campaign as a rookie. Belichick complimented Jones' progress at that time and supported the 24-year-old when asked if he was considered the Patriots' No. 1 option.
"Yeah, I mean, look, Mac's been our quarterback for two years," Belichick said, via ESPN's Mike Reiss. "As I tell the team every year, each player, each coach, we all have to re-establish and prove ourselves every year. That's what this league is. That's for all of us -- '23 is '23. We'll see how '23 goes."
Jones enters a crucial third season following a disappointing sophomore campaign that included a short-lived benching midseason. It was also Jones' first season without offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who went on to become head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. The Patriots quickly fell out of playoff contention with an offense that finished in the bottom ten in yards (314.6) and points per game (21.4) in 2022.
Belichick expressed his unhappiness with the results after 2022, declaring the Patriots will "evaluate everything" in the offseason upon announcing his return for his 24th season as head coach. By adding that the Patriots won't be "resting on their past laurels" in 2023 and that the team "will play the best player" at quarterback throughout the offseason, big changes appeared to be brewing in New England.
The biggest change was the hiring of Bill O'Brien as the new offensive coordinator, and it remained that way following the 2023 NFL Draft. O'Brien, too, has been promoting competition upon his undertaking, saying Jones and the Patriots offense will have a "clean slate" ahead of this upcoming season. The Patriots OC had nothing but good things to say about Jones and second-year QB Bailey Zappe.
"The quarterback room has been really good," O'Brien said Friday. "Mac Jones has worked really, really hard this offseason. Been here every day. We just started working [in the voluntary offseason program] two weeks [ago] and that's been good. A lot of good meetings. A lot of good give-and-take.
"Bailey Zappe, same thing. Really working very hard. Good guys that care about the team, care about winning, and doing what's best for the team, which has always been the mantra. It's been fun to work with them."
The Patriots added running back James Robinson, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and tight end Mike Gesicki in the offseason, which seemingly offset the free-agent departures of RB Damien Harris, WR Jakobi Meyers and TE Jonnu Smith. The team also signed QB Trace McSorley for depth.
New England used its first three picks in the 2023 NFL Draft on defense, selecting standout Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez with the No.17 overall pick. Georgia Tech pass rusher Keion White and Sacramento State linebacker Marte Mapu followed in rounds two and three, respectively.
Belichick indicated that wasn't necessarily the plan entering the draft.
"It just worked out that way ... there are a lot of different ways to build a team," Belichick said. "This is one part of it. Free agency was part of it [and we] didn't sign a lot of defensive players in free agency. Most of the signings were on offense."
Jones' status in New England will be viewed under a microscope until impending results on the field unfold. At this point, the Patriots appear to be comfortable with the QB room headed into 2023 following this year's round of free agency and drafting.