QB Milton goes to Pats, says TE move not in cards



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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots selected University of Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III in the sixth round of the NFL draft Saturday, double-dipping at the position after picking North Carolina’s Drake Maye third overall.

Milton acknowledged he was somewhat surprised to hear from the Patriots at pick No. 193 but said it was nonetheless special to receive word from the team given the adversity he said he has faced over his career.

“I had all the [NFL] hats laid out. You just never know where you’re going to end up. I was just waiting on any phone call,” he told reporters on a videoconference. “It’s a blessing, for sure.”

The 6-foot-5, 246-pound Milton said all of his conversations with the Patriots have been about playing quarterback. Some draft analysts wondered if teams might consider him as a tight end, but Milton said bluntly: “That will never happen.”

The Patriots now have five quarterbacks on their roster, led by veteran Jacoby Brissett, who had signed a one-year contract worth $8 million in March. Maye is the hopeful quarterback of the future, with Milton, 2022 fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe and second-year player Nathan Rourke also on the depth chart.

“Just the opportunity. I feel like everywhere you go, no matter what quarterback got selected in this draft, you’re going to have to compete,” said Milton, who relayed that he had developed a connection with Maye well before the draft, as they first met at a Peyton Manning-run camp before the season. “Nothing is just given to you no matter who you are. That’s what I’m looking forward to do.”

The pick used to select Milton had been acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars in March in exchange for former starter and first-round pick Mac Jones.

This marks just the second time in team history that the Patriots selected two quarterbacks in a draft. The other time came in 1983 with Tony Eason and Tom Ramsey.

In addition, New England became just the fourth team since 2000 to draft a quarterback after also taking one in the first round. The others are Pittsburgh with Kenny Pickett and Chris Oladokun in 2022, Washington with Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins in 2012, and Indianapolis with Andrew Luck and Chandler Harnish in 2012.

“We’re in the business of trying to get good football players through the door, and Milton happens to be one of them,” Patriots first-year coach Jerod Mayo said. “Obviously, he understands we took a quarterback at 3, with Drake. One thing we preach is competition. Nothing is given. All of it is earned. That’s how we thought about the process.”

Asked if the Patriots would consider using Milton in spots other than quarterback, Mayo said: “We’ll have to see how that kind of plays out once we put the pads on, but we drafted him as a quarterback.”

Milton, 24, spent three seasons at Michigan, mostly sitting behind starter Shea Patterson before starting five games in 2020 and then being replaced by Cade McNamara. He transferred to Tennessee in 2021, starting the first two games in his initial season before injuring his ankle. Hendon Hooker took the quarterback reins for the rest of the year and into 2022.

Milton didn’t reemerge until the final two games of 2022, when Hooker suffered a knee injury. The strong-armed Milton was named MVP of the Orange Bowl after going 19-of-28 for 251 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Clemson. He then returned as the starter in 2023, taking advantage of an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 12 starts last season, he was 229-of-354 for 2,813 yards, with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. He added 78 rushes for 299 yards and seven touchdowns.

His 20 touchdown passes traveled an average of 21.2 yards downfield, the second highest in FBS among quarterbacks with 20 touchdown passes, trailing only Alabama’s Jalen Milroe (25.4).

From 2021 to ’23, Milton had 17 pass attempts of at least 50 air yards. No other FBS player had more than nine over that span.

Summing up his journey on Saturday, Milton said: “It’s a wonderful moment. I’m pretty much speechless at this point.”

Milton became the first Tennessee player selected by the Patriots since Mayo, their former linebacker and now coach, in 2008 (No. 10 overall).

“It’s great to always have two ‘VFLs’ in the building, especially when you’re somewhere else other than Knoxville,” Milton said, referencing the motto “Volunteer for Life.”

“Just for us to reconnect, get to know each other, it’s going to be great.”



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