Patriots' scouting chief making personnel calls, including draft

Should the Patriots draft a QB? (2:15)

Bart Scott and Louis Riddick debate whether the Patriots should draft a rookie quarterback with the third overall pick. (2:15)

The buck stops with director of scouting Eliot Wolf as the New England Patriots usher in a "new era" after parting ways with Bill Belichick after 24 seasons.

Wolf confirmed Tuesday at the NFL combine that he has been given final decision-making authority on personnel, which includes the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL draft -- a valuable chip that led owner Robert Kraft to call this the most anticipated draft of his 31-year tenure.

Wolf stressed the team's intention for collaboration, specifically mentioning first-year head coach Jerod Mayo and director of player personnel Matt Groh, before adding: "At the end of the day, somebody has to make that pick, and that will be myself."

Belichick held that responsibility for the majority of his 24-year tenure that included six Super Bowl championships.

Wolf, 41, enters his fifth season with the Patriots and said he plans to implement similar philosophies to what he learned as he rose up the ranks with the Green Bay Packers from 2004 to 2017. That includes "a little bit more reliance on playing young players," with a heavy emphasis on drafting and developing, and then attempting to sign those younger players to contract extensions.

"My time in Green Bay meant everything; it's where I learned my foundation of scouting, leadership, how to treat people, really just everything in terms of the business of football," said Wolf, the son of former Packers general manager and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ron Wolf. "It's prepared me for this moment to help the New England Patriots get back to where we need to go."

Wolf confirmed to reporters that the Patriots plan to meet with three top quarterbacks at this week's combine -- Southern Cal's Caleb Williams, LSU's Jayden Daniels and North Carolina's Drake Maye -- among others.

At least one of them will be available at the No. 3 pick, the highest the franchise has ever picked under Kraft.

"I think it's a really good year for quarterbacks. Like any position, we're going to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses to determine who fits for us," Wolf said. "One thing about the quarterbacks in this draft, specifically, that I'm excited about is they all look like they're really tough guys. Which is obviously great at any position, but the quarterback position especially."

Wolf noted it's "pretty early in the process" in the team's evaluation, while adding: "I think when you look throughout the league, most of the quarterbacks are first-rounders. There's exceptions -- like Dak Prescott, Brock Purdy, Tom Brady -- but I think the understanding of how important that position is, and to have somebody there that can help you win games and get over the hump, has changed leaguewide."

The Patriots selected quarterback Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 draft, 15th overall. In the common draft era (since 1967), only four teams have picked a quarterback in the top 15 twice over a four-year span.

Asked what attributes he prioritizes in a quarterback, Wolf said: "First of all, someone that can elevate his teammates. Someone that your teammates want to play for. I think that's an extremely underrated thing that people don't really talk about that much. Leadership is important. And obviously physical talent; we wouldn't be talking about these guys if they weren't physically talented."

Wolf said he has changed the team's grading system that was used by Belichick -- which he said was more role-based -- to what he believes is more of a "value-based" system that will make it easier for scouts to rank prospects.

Specific to some of the team's top pending free agents -- offensive lineman Mike Onwenu and safety Kyle Dugger -- he said the Patriots want them both to return. Wolf didn't rule out the possibility of assigning the franchise tag to one of them.

Onwenu has moved on from his agent, and Wolf seemed to indicate that Onwenu is now representing himself.

"Mike is a core player for us. It's no secret we want to try to keep Mike, and it will just be a little bit of a wrinkle dealing with him," he said. "Mike is really smart, he's introspective, he's thoughtful, and he understands; he knows what he wants, which is always good when you're dealing with a player. He's certainly someone we view as a cornerstone for us."