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Patriots Fans Should Feel Confident as Both Wolf and Highsmith Have Been Down This Road

New England Patriots personnel duo Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith have faced a similar rebuild.

Ian Logue
Ian Logue on Twitter
February 29, 2024 at 4:16 pm ET

Patriots Fans Should Feel Confident as Both Wolf and Highsmith Have Been Down This Road(PHOTO: Greg M. Cooper - USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 4 minutes

One thing that was interesting to go back and look at was the 2018 NFL Draft, with the duo of Eliot Wolf and Alfonzo Highsmith both doing the heavy-lifting under GM John Dorsey in handling the reboot for the Cleveland Browns. It’s obviously a similar situation to what’s now happening here in New England, as everything changed for the Browns over the next several years in a positive way following that draft.

For those who don’t remember, that was the year the Browns selected both quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb, which ended up being two key pieces as Cleveland turned things around and ended up becoming a factor again in the AFC North.

And it wasn’t just the Mayfield and Chubb selections that panned out.  Among other notable selections were defensive back Denzel Ward (1st round), who finished his rookie year with 3 interceptions, along with receiver Antonio Callaway (4th round), who finished with 43 catches for 586 yards in his first season.

The selections on offense are obviously the focus, given where the Patriots are heading into this year’s draft.  But it was interesting hearing both Eliot and Highsmith, each talk about the reasoning behind the Chubb and Mayfield selections.

“Baker was a guy I had an opportunity to watch play live last year against Texas and the thing you could really see with him was his presence on the field,” said Wolf.  “Pregame, he would walk by a group of Oklahoma players, and there was just that instant energy that everyone had.  And then once the game starts, he’s got all the physical tools you look for.  He’s a little bit shorter than everyone’s perfect idea of a quarterback, but we didn’t feel like that necessarily contributed to any negative play.”

Highsmith agreed, and his dealings with Mayfield confirmed Eliot’s thoughts when it came to how they felt about him as a player.

“I’ve been around great quarterbacks my whole life,” added Highsmith.  “Played with Warren Moon, played with Troy Aikman, been around Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Testeverde, Bernie Kosar, I was in the huddle with all those guys – well, not in the huddle with Brett Favre and those guys but the other guys before that – and there’s something more than a big arm to be a quarterback.  Because if it was just about a big arm, well, then everybody would be successful at the quarterback position.”

“We throw out all the traits of what it takes to be a quarterback when someone doesn’t measure up to somebody’s standards.  And I’ve always wondered, when it comes to being a good football player, who’s standards are we judging them by?  It’s about playing the game.  It’s about being a good football player.  And it’s about wins.  And I thought Baker made all those checks to me and he had the ‘it’ factor to me.”

Nick Chubb

(PHOTO: PHIL MASTURZO via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

Highsmith: Chubb’s Traits Went Beyond the Field

When it came to Chubb, it was interesting to hear about how they viewed him, along with what traits stood out and the philosophy behind the selection.

“He’s super productive,” said Wolf.  “I think he’s second all-time in the SEC behind Herschel Walker in rushing yards.  He’s big, he’s got excellent feet for his size, he’s got good burst.  Powerful, super balance.  Alonzo’s the running back expert, so he can add to that.”

“I’ve been a big fan of Chubb for a long time,” said Highsmith.  “One thing about SEC running backs is when you play running back in the SEC, you have to be able to create between the tackles with your feet, and you have to be able to play a physical style of football, and Nick Chubb exemplifies all of that in his running style.  Not only is he a great football player, he’s a tremendous person, tremendous individual, tremendous leader, and he exemplifies what we’re trying to build here in Cleveland.  We want real guys.  Guys that like football.”

Chubb’s name is one that resonates here in New England, as he’s been a name that constantly comes up when people talk about the selection by the Patriots of running back Sony Michel that year with the 31st overall pick.  Chubb went four picks later, and he’s forever the player New England fans wish the club had drafted instead.

Meanwhile, what’s notable about the Mayfield selection is out of the top 10 selections, the Browns managed to at least get one of the two guys who, at least at the time, turned out to be viable starters.  Mayfield went first overall that year, with Sam Darnold going to the Jets with the 3rd overall pick, while the Bills took Josh Allen at 7th overall, and the Cardinals took Josh Rosen 10th overall.

Mayfield and Allen were ultimately the two who panned out, albeit some internal issues with the Browns after both GM John Dorsey and Eliot and Highsmith were gone, led to the Browns parting ways with Mayfield.

But at the end of the day, they could very well have gone with Darnold or Rosen, yet they managed to at least end up with a guy who had success on the field.

Granted, like the rest of the league, they passed on Lamar Jackson, who went 32nd that year, but he was someone the rest of the league also let slip to the end of the first round before the Ravens took him.

They also ended up with a decent haul in 2019 after ending up with players that included defensive back Greedy Williams (2nd round), linebacker Sione Takitaki (3rd round), and linebacker Mack Wilson (5th round).  All three turned out to be solid players, with fans here in New England seeing some good play from Wilson after the club acquired him in the trade that sent Chase Winovich to Cleveland.

Overall, the two seemed to do most of the work behind the scenes during Dorsey’s tenure, and it was interesting to hear their thoughts during the process.  We’ll see what it means a couple of months from now, but it should be encouraging that both Eliot and Highsmith will ensure that among the available names, the Patriots will at least end up with one of the guys who will be able to contribute.

However, like anything else, they’re limited to what’s available.  Guys who have the true “it” factor are rare in the NFL, and while you can make the argument they missed out on Allen and Jackson, they also could very well have ended up taking Darnold or Rosen.  Some can also argue Mayfield’s exit, but upon review, there were other factors that played a role there, which extended to things beyond their now-former quarterback.

Fortunately, they made what, at the time, was the best decision.  So we’ll have to hope that maybe they’ll also get a little lucky when the time comes with who they eventually end up with here in New England.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The above appeared in a recent notebook column here.)

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About Ian Logue

Ian Logue is a Seacoast native and owner and senior writer for PatsFans.com, an independent media site covering the New England Patriots and has been running this site in one form or another since 1997.


Tags: Alonzo Highsmith Baker Mayfield Eliot Wolf Nick Chubb

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