The New England Patriots continue to make moves at wide receiver. After acquiring Antonio Brown on Saturday, the team has now parted ways with one of its depth options at the position: New England has reportedly traded Demaryius Thomas to the New York Jets for a sixth-round draft pick in 2021. The move certainly makes sense with Brown now on board, but it does alter the overall composition of team’s wide receiver position.
With that in mind, let’s reset New England’s wide receiver depth chart. Of course — and this is important — 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 (PUP)
New England’s top-two X-receivers both looked terrific on Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers: while Josh Gordon caught three passes for 73 yards and a touchdown, Phillip Dorsett finished the game with four receptions for 95 yards and two scores. Both were on the same page as Tom Brady throughout the game and showed that they have earned their quarterback’s trust as integral members of the passing offense.
The other two X-options listed above do not have any impact on New England’s passing offense, at least for the time being. While Matthew Slater plays his usual role as a core special teamer that will continue to see virtually no snaps outside of the kicking game, N’Keal Harry remains on injured reserve. However, the first-round rookie is expected to get activated again further down the line which would further boost the overall talent level at the wide receiver position.
Cameron Meredith (PUP)
With Demaryius Thomas now in New York, the Patriots have only two Z-receivers remaining on their 53-man squad (of course, as noted above, the other wideouts can play this role as well): Antonio Brown and Jakobi Meyers. The recently signed Brown will see considerable action in this role given his status as one of the best wide receivers in all of football and New England’s investment in him as its number one option at the position.
The civil lawsuit that was filed against him on Tuesday could alter the outlook in the long-term, but for now the 31-year-old is still expected to be a key cog in the Patriots’ aerial attack. Behind him, undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers is expected to serve as a rotational depth piece that is still being developed — don’t be surprised if he becomes a game day inactive on a regular basis barring injury ahead of him on the depth chart.
While often seen primarily as a slot receiver, Julian Edelman sees plenty of snaps outside the numbers as well. He can therefore be considered to be more of a Z than a traditional slot player. But no matter where he lines up, the Super Bowl MVP will remain a) the Patriots’ best option to line up on the inside , and b) Tom Brady’s go-to pass catcher even with the likes of Brown, Gordon, Dorsett and running back James White also available.
Gunner Olszewski, meanwhile, is one of the winners of the last week. Not only did he show off his skills as a punt returner against the Steelers — he ran back two kicks for 20 and 15 yards, respectively — he also survived the addition of Brown to the 53-man roster. Thomas being traded to New York further confirms his standing on the team: the undrafted rookie appears to be safe for now given his contributions on special teams.
All in all, the Patriots’ wide receiver depth chart is one of the deepest and most talented in all of football even with Demaryius Thomas getting shipped to the Jets. While Brown’s legal situation has the potential to drastically change things, the group would be able to withstand that blow as well. Of course, things remain rather fluid at this point. For the time being, however, New England’s wide receiver group has tremendous potential.