Why did the Patriots draft both Drake Maye, Joe Milton III?

Drake Maye hurls a no-look pass in Pats OTAs (0:20)

QB Drake Maye throws a no-look dime on the move in Patriots OTAs. (0:20)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- University of Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III was caught off guard on the third day of the NFL draft in late April.

He had hats from all 32 NFL teams laid out in front of him. As he awaited the phone call from the team that might draft him, envisioning the joy he would experience by picking up the hat with that team's logo, Milton had all but ruled out the dark blue Patriots lid as a possibility.

It made sense. The Patriots already had selected North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye with the No. 3 overall pick, and since 2000, only three teams had drafted a quarterback after also taking one in the first round.

So one could imagine Milton's surprise when the Patriots called him at pick No. 193 of the sixth round, with executive vice president of personnel Eliot Wolf saying Milton had "too much talent" to pass up. Minutes later, when Milton held a video conference with reporters proudly wearing a Patriots hat, he was asked if he knew any veterans on the team.

"To be honest, I wasn't expecting this call," Milton said with a smile. "So I have to look at the roster again."

Of the 167 selections made on Day 3 of the draft, covering Rounds 4-7, arguably none was as fascinating as the Patriots' pick of the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Milton. Not only had the team selected Maye, it had signed veteran quarterback Jacoby Brissett to a one-year contract with a base salary of $8 million in the offseason. With 48 career starts, Brissett currently projects as the most likely option to be under center when the Patriots open the regular season Sept. 8 at the Cincinnati Bengals.

Meanwhile, Maye is the hopeful quarterback of the future, with first-year head coach Jerod Mayo praising his progress and saying there is no timetable for when he might start. And not to be forgotten is 2022 fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe, whom Mayo referred to as a "true professional" providing another layer of valuable experience (eight starts).

"We drafted two quarterbacks, obviously he is going to be competing with those guys, but at the same time he is an open book. He is a resource," Mayo said of Zappe.

Milton's arrival sparked questions: Why would the Patriots use a second draft pick on a QB, especially when they presumably have their franchise QB of the future in Maye? And would the Patriots seriously consider keeping four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for the first time since 2000 when No. 4 on the depth chart was then-rookie Tom Brady?

"You want to have a strong room," Mayo said. "I would say the way it looks now, we have a very strong room."

WHEN MATT HASSELBECK saw the Patriots drafted Milton, he was perplexed because they were coming off a 4-13 season and had plenty of other needs after getting their quarterback of the future in Round 1. But then he remembered Wolf was calling the shots, and it all made sense.

"That is the Packer Way, or the Ron Wolf Way," he said.

Hasselbeck, the former ESPN football analyst, knows it better than most because he lived it himself as a 1998 sixth-round pick of the Packers.

Ron Wolf, the team's general manager from 1991-2000 and father of Eliot Wolf, was known for almost always drafting a quarterback each year even though he had ironman Brett Favre at the position. The G-rated way it was later described to Hasselbeck was that the team's quarterback approach was to "kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer."

"That was just what the Packers do. They talked about it in the building," said Hasselbeck, who spent his rookie season on the practice squad as the No. 4 option behind Favre, Doug Pederson and Rick Mirer -- which meant sometimes playing tight end and blocking Pro Football Hall of Famer Reggie White before getting his QB-specific repetitions.

Such was the environment in which the now 42-year-old Eliot Wolf grew up; he had been entrusted by the scouting staff to pull tags off the Packers' draft board when he was as young as 10.

Notable quarterbacks selected during his father's GM tenure included BYU's Ty Detmer (1992, No. 230), Washington's Mark Brunell (1993, No. 118), Alabama's Jay Barker (1995, No. 160), Boston College's Hasselbeck (1998, No. 187) and Virginia's Aaron Brooks (1999, No. 131).

Brunell was traded to the Jaguars after two seasons, bringing back a return of third- and fifth-round picks as impressive preseason performances improved his stock. That was another reason the Packers viewed the annual drafting of quarterbacks as good business: They could not only provide insurance behind Favre but become valuable trade chips if their development progressed as hoped.

Hasselbeck later was traded to the Seahawks while Brooks was shipped to the Saints -- both for richer capital than the selection their teams had used to pick them. The Packers traded Hasselbeck and their first-round pick (No. 17) to the Seahawks in exchange for a first-round pick (No. 10) and third-round selection (No. 72). Meanwhile, Brooks and tight end Lamont Hall were traded to the Saints in exchange for linebacker K.D. Williams and a third-round pick.

Those who worked under Ron Wolf have since kept the stock-the-QB-cupboard tradition alive, beyond what unfolded this year in New England.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider, who began his career as a Packers scout in 1993, delivered one of the most notable examples in 2012 by selecting Russell Wilson in the third round after having signed free agent Packers quarterback Matt Flynn to a then-starting-caliber three-year, $26 million contract despite already having returning starter Tarvaris Jackson on the roster. Wilson emerged as a Day 1 starter as a rookie, played in nine Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl championship in the 2013 season (the franchise's lone title).

And earlier this year, current Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst, who began his career as a scout with the Packers organization in 1999, told local reporters: "Getting back to drafting multiple quarterbacks is something that I've wanted to do." He then backed it up by selecting Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt in the seventh round (No. 245) after having used a fifth-rounder on Penn State's Sean Clifford (No. 149) in 2023. Clifford projects as the No. 2 option behind starter Jordan Love, who of course, was a 2020 first-round pick despite Green Bay having Aaron Rodgers at the time.

Said Hasselbeck: "It's always been the idea of, 'We're going to overinvest in this position."

IN THE PATRIOTS' first voluntary organized team activity last week, Mayo seemed to be making a statement they won't be rushing Maye into the lineup.

In the lone competitive 11-on-11 period, Brissett took eight repetitions, Zappe four, Maye three and Milton zero. Maye and Milton were the third and fourth quarterbacks throughout the practice, with Mayo acknowledging he was looking for different things from each signal-caller based on their experience. And in this week's lone practice open to reporters, Brissett led off 11-on-11 drills again, totaling nine snaps, while Zappe had nine and Maye six.

A friendly back-and-forth has developed between the rookies, with Mayo saying he likes how Maye and Milton push each other, calling them "accountability partners on and off the field." It also helped that they had developed a connection prior to the draft, meeting at a Peyton Manning-led camp.

"Joe's my guy. We're competing, two rookies in here trying to learn it," Maye said. "We both have strong arms, so just trying to let it rip."

Maye also has developed a quick rapport with Brissett, the two having met previously through quarterback Sam Howell, Maye's best pal and former teammate at North Carolina who played for the Commanders last season alongside Brissett. Maye said after his first weekend of practices, Brissett was texting him to see how his cadence at the line of scrimmage was going.

Hasselbeck believes that dynamic -- and having Brissett as an example for Maye to follow -- might be the most critical of all for the Patriots.

"The makeup of the [quarterback] room is so important, because you have to compete with the guy but also not be selfish," he said. "The best situations are when you are literally rooting for the other guy. My second year, I was competing for one spot with Rick Mirer, who was the No. 2 pick in the [1993] draft. He helped me every day. He'd leave town and leave me his Suburban.

"It was good for the team. It was good for the starter. It was good for the coach. And it was good for every quarterback I ever played with after that, because it was like 'that's what I need -- that type of atmosphere to cultivate in the quarterback room.' I think Jacoby is that type of guy."

The Packers' evolution from Favre, to Rodgers, and now Love has made them a model for others to follow in quarterback stability and development. Gutekunst noted "there's no magic formula" while adding the organization has "allowed them time before they've had to play."

"The amount that is on that guy's plate -- pre-snap to post-snap and everything that goes into it, the amount of information he has to process in such a limited amount of time, all the leadership stuff, the intangible stuff, it's just an exceptionally hard position to play," he said. "There is a certain amount of athletic gifts and talent you have to have, and there is so much more beyond that. The thing that I think is lost at times is how much of it has to be developed over time. You never really know until you have that time to try to develop a guy, whether he's going to be able to do it at a high level or not."

Which helps explain why the Packers kept drafting quarterbacks throughout the years, and the Patriots -- in Wolf's first year calling the shots -- took the same approach

Considering 66 quarterbacks started a game last season across the NFL, with just nine teams having one signal-caller start every game, quality depth at the position is as valuable as ever. The Patriots know this as well as any team over the past four seasons. They had the golden ticket with Brady for almost two decades.

Now they enter 2024 with four options -- some old, some new -- with hope of sparking another QB renaissance.