In the Patriots offense, they make excellent use of their slot receivers and they’ve had some really good ones over the last 15 years. Troy Brown, Wes Welker, and Danny Amendola have been integral pieces to the Patriots passing game. With Amendola on the wrong side of 30 and his lengthy injury history, the Patriots have to consider looking for his long term replacement. The player who best fits that profile is North Carolina WR Ryan Switzer. If you’re wondering, he’s white and is about 5’9” so throw around obligatory Wes Welker comps if you want to.
Switzer had solid seasons, but really took off his senior season where he caught 96 passes for 1,112 yards and 6 TD. In a 2-week span against Pittsburgh and Florida State, Switzer caught 30 passes for 366 yards and a TD. North Carolina relied on him more as a chain mover than anything else, as evidenced by the low TD count despite catching 96 passes. In addition to being a reliable slot WR, he’s very capable of returning punts with 7 career punt return TD, including 5 his freshman year. His ability to return punts will keep him on the field while he waits for an opportunity to crack the WR rotation. When Amendola likely goes down with an injury, Switzer should be available to step up in his place as a rookie.
Vs. NC State 2016
Switzer caught 13 passes for 171 yards and a TD in this game, the big numbers a reflection of the score as North Carolina was down 28-7 in the 2nd half. Switzer primarily lined up in the slot, although he saw a couple plays out wide. His routes aren’t do different than what the Patriots ask Amendola to run and Switzer showed good hands and athletic ability in this game. Only drop was because he was being hit as the ball was being thrown to him on a bubble screen. Momentarily left the game when his right foot got rolled up on the turf, but finished the game with little limitations.
vs. Pittsburgh 2016
Switzer shows excellent run after the catch ability, as North Carolina throw him bubble screens in the slot. Late in the game, when North Carolina needed a spark, Mitch Trubisky turned to Switzer to convert three huge 4th downs in the final quarter. Switzer’s heroics fueled North Carolina’s offense to make a 13-point comeback in the 4th quarter and win 37-36.
Vs. Florida State 2016
Switzer once again showed his skills against Florida State, showing the ability to run routes to shake coverage and burn his opponents after the catch. Florida State did not have much of an answer for him as he ran wild in the open field. Switzer’s route running skills are more advanced than I thought and was once again Mitch Trubisky’s safety blanket.
Patriots Fit: Switzer is a late Day 2 prospect that I think would be the best candidate to groom as the next slot receiver. His quickness plus feel for zones makes him an ideal candidate for the spot as he waits his turn. In addition, his ability in the open field makes him an ideal punt returner to take pressure off of Julian Edelman to have to return punts. Switzer’s route running is solid, but could use refinement in that area. He catches the ball well from the slot although compared to other good WR prospects, he has a limited fit in the NFL. Patriots have a good shot at drafting him with either of their 3rd round picks.
Pro Comp: Wes Welker. Switzer’s ability to run routes from the slot and beat nickel defenders makes him a solid developmental slot WR for the Patriots. Like Welker his sudden and quick acceleration makes him an ideal candidate to run routes in the middle of the field against linebackers and safeties as well as return punts. Switzer could use a year to learn the offense and the option routes he’ll have to run, but he’ll have two great mentors in Edelman and Amendola teaching him. While we’re at it, give Switzer #83, it will be as if Welker never left.