Earlier today, the New England Patriots sent a second-round draft pick to the Atlanta Falcons to acquire wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. The 30-year-old adds considerable talent and versatility to a Patriots receiving arsenal that has seen plenty of personnel turnover this season — be it because of injury, or because of outside acquisitions such as Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown not working out as planned.
With that being said, let’s reset a New England wide receiver depth chart that now features the former second-round draft pick. Of course, you always have to keep in mind that the labels are not exclusive, and that most players are capable of playing multiple positions.
Phillip Dorsett II
N’Keal Harry (IR-return)
While Josh Gordon missed the entire week of practice and Monday night’s game against the New York Jets itself because of knee and ankle injuries, the expectation at this point in time is that he will still eventually return to the team. The 28-year-old would then resume his usual spot as New England’s top big-bodied perimeter target and a top-two option at the position in terms of playing time — one that actually was used in more different roles this season when compared to last.
Phillip Dorsett, meanwhile, will likely serve as more of a rotational third/fourth option moving forward depending on the situation and personnel group — a usage that has suited him well in the past. N’Keal Harry, on the other hand, just returned to practice last week after a stint on injured reserve. The first-round rookie will be eligible to return to game action in Week 9, but it would not be a surprise if his impact was limited early on given his comparative inexperience in combination with the depth at wide receiver around him.
Special teams ace Matthew Slater will continue to play the role he held for most of his previous 11 seasons with the Patriots: he will be a core special teamer that only gets irregular action on offense as either a decoy or the deep man on kneel-down plays.
Julian Edelman is capable of lining up all over the formation, and the Patriots use him accordingly. Brining in Sanu, however, could lead to the team giving him added snaps outside the formation in a more classical Z-receiver role. The reigning Super Bowl MVP has never been a typical slot receiver to begin with, and unlike ex-Patriots Danny Amendola and Wes Welker was used split out wide on a regular basis. If the Sanu acquisition results in such a change, it should therefore not have too big an impact on Edelman’s productivity.
Jakobi Meyers, on the other hand, likely gets pushed down the depth chart with Sanu now on board. While he served as a third and fourth option so far this season — and briefly a number two in Week 6 — it seems like a foregone conclusion that he will see only limited playing time moving forward. After all, he was a game-day inactive for the one game that the Patriots had a fourth veteran receiver (Antonio Brown) on board. It’s no stretch of the imagination to expect similar results, with the individual game plans dictating the undrafted rookie’s role.
Sanu’s versatility is one of his best traits, but when looking simply at lineups he was primarily used as a slot option so far this season: of the 373 wide receiver snaps he played for the Falcons during his first seven games in 2019, 296 (79.4%) saw him line up inside the formation. The Patriots could opt to use him differently and will likely move him around quite a bit, of course, but from the current perspective he appears to be locked in as a top slot option.
The current seventh wide receiver, meanwhile, will likely be used exclusively in the kicking game moving forward — if the team keeps him on the 53-man roster in the first place. Undrafted rookie Gunner Olszewski has seen little action on offense even before Sanu was brought in today, and barring an injury to one of the players atop him on the depth chart will be used as little more than a punt returner moving forward.