The Patriots are currently looking for their next great slot receiver after Danny Amendola left in free agency. Earlier on my Top 10, I listed Trey Quinn as a viable option but he was low on the list because he played in a mid-major conference and doesn’t have experience returning punts. However, those two problems aren’t an issue for Braxton Berrios, who played against ACC competition at the University of Miami and was their main punt returner for his final 3 years there.
There’s no combine data from Berrios, but his pro day he was clocked in at 4.44 in the 40, with 1.59 and 2.59 10 and 20 yard splits, a 4.18 5-10-5 shuttle, and 6.72 3-cone. Those are all solid measurables for a slot receiver and punt returner.
Vs. Miami 2017
In this game, Berrios was Malik Rosier’s safety valve on 3rd downs or red zone. Berrios seems to have the subtleties to route running already down, little things such as body positioning, driving a defender off the route at the top of the stem, and knowing how much he can push off without getting penalized. His lack of size and length probably limits him to slot receiver only in the NFL, but he’d be a great slot receiver nonetheless. In the run game, Berrios is a willing blocker and sets up his blocks well.
Berrios is a pure slot receiver, which means he has a limited fit in most offenses. However, given the nature of how the Patriots utilized similar players to Berrios in Wes Welker and Danny Amendola, he could very much carve out a niche in this offense. Lack of size and length means Berrios has to win with route running and quickness in the NFL similar to the two aforementioned players. Berrios isn’t a player the Patriots should select before Day 3 of the draft although I think he could be a great value pickup.
Rookie Year Projection
Jordan Matthews is the Patriots starting slot receiver going into training camp as far as I’m concerned, so Berrios will primarily handle punt returns as a rookie with the occasional snaps on offense. In his rookie camp, Berrios will have to compete for one of the last jobs at the position with the 4-year veteran. Should Berrios beat out Matthews for a roster spot, he’d be behind Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Malcolm Mitchell on the depth chart.
Long Term Projection
Berrios would be the team’s punt returner and slot receiver in the offense, a similar role that Troy Brown, Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman have had in the past. His quickness is an asset at both spots. Berrios’ job would be running option routes to take advantage of coverages, mostly to the middle of the field, to move the chains.
Grade: 4/5 Future Starter
Player Comp: Wes Welker
Berrios is the closest prospect from a measurable standpoints from the former Patriots great slot receiver. While not exceptionally fast or explosive, Berrios has great route running skills and a feel for getting open.
Draft Projection: 5th Round
Berrios is not exceptionally big, athletic, explosive enough to win on the boundary, so he shouldn’t go before Day 3. A team that utilizes option routes from the slot, like the Patriots do, will be able to extract the maximum value out of him as both a slot receiver and punt returner. The Patriots are in the market for a long term answer at both spots and Berrios has a proven track record at the collegiate level. Perhaps history repeats itself and the Patriots pick up an underrated slot receiver out of Miami and turn into a weapon on offense.