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Patriots roster tier: The wide receivers

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Related: Patriots roster tier: The running backs

NFL: NOV 24 Cowboys at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Episode three. (We’re calling them episode now.) Go back and check out our first two here (QB) and here (RB). The explanation of each category and rules to the “No Chance” game can be found in the QB list. Also follow me on Twitter here. Let’s get into it.

In order: Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, Marqise Lee, Jeff Thomas, Will Hastings, Quincy Adeboyejo, Gunner Olszewski, Sean Riley, Isaiah Zuber, Devin Ross.

The Guy

Julian EdelmanI mean this is the biggest slam dunk since Vince Carter’s honey dip. Edelman is not only “The Guy” at the wide receiver position, he is now the bonafide leader of the offense. I’m not going to try to convince you of something that you guys already know so let’s just admire some Edelman fun facts!

  • Did you know he played quarterback in college?!

Just kidding, let’s get into the good stuff.

Roster Locks

N’Keal HarryCall me an optimist but I envision a breakout season for last year’s first-round pick. It has been well publicized that Harry has spent this offseason with footwork specialist Rischad Whitfield, who’s client list includes DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., Emmanuel Sanders, and Ceedee Lamb. With more time under his belt learning the offense and the ability to develop a relationship with a quarterback who ISN’T allergic to throwing the ball in his direction, his role should expand.

Harry will have the ability to enter next season without all of the problems that plagued him last year like injuries, limited time working within the offense, and bad chemistry with the QB. With a clean slate he is more than capable of being the number two receiver in the offense. It feels like he makes a play every time he gets the ball in his hands, and he will certainly get more than 20 touches next year.

Mohamed SanuI believe it is a real possibility that Mohamed Sanu gets traded prior to the season. If he is NOT traded, Sanu is a lock to make the team out of camp. Despite his high contract figure ($6.5M) and his disappointing half-season with the Patriots, he is the only dependable veteran receiver the Patriots have outside of Edelman.

Sanu isn’t going to get you 100 catches or 1,000 yards but he’s a consistent 50-60 catch guy who can play all three receiver positions. His versatility is something the Patriots could use given the limitations of the other receivers on the roster. More time in the system should lead to more production, and a better season out of Sanu.

Fringe Roster Guys

Jakobi MeyersThis roster needs a guy like Meyers on it. Compared to all of the rest of the receivers I will mention, Meyers is the most versatile and durable. Similar to Sanu, he can play multiple receiver positions and has been durable throughout his collegiate and pro career.

When I looked back at what Meyers did last season, I was pleasantly surprised with his production. Meyers had 26 catches for 359 yards in his limited time on the field (36% of offensive snaps), that was with Tom Brady and even though we all love and cherish him, we know Brady tends to shy away from young receivers. Jarrett Stidham on the other hand . . . relied on Meyers heavily in the preseason. Brian Hoyer seemed to like Meyers as well, both quarterbacks each connected with him for a touchdown last preseason. Meyers, if allowed an opportunity can carve out a nice role for himself.

Damiere ByrdByrd was a part of the underwhelming very Patriot-like free agent class this season. With all of the roster turnover it seems as if Byrd was lost in the shuffle a bit. In his four years split between Carolina and Arizona, Byrd has a total of 44 career catches for 488 yards and three touchdowns. His numbers won’t overwhelm you but his speed will. Byrd ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at his pro day. He also has experience as a kick and punt returner.

Byrd wasn’t a huge free agent splash and is no lock to make the team (his 1 year, $1 million contract proves that) but has just as good a chance to make the roster as any other player in the bottom three tiers.

Marqise LeeNow THIS is an intriguing name. Lee was signed by the Patriots just three days after the Jaguars released him. He is a very productive receiver when healthy and in his lone full season (2016) he put up 851 yards on 63 catches, good for second on the Jags in both categories. He has more than enough talent to be a contributor for the Patriots, his problem lies in his health.

In the last two seasons Lee has missed 26 games, missing all of 2018 with an ACL injury and ending 2019 on IR with a shoulder injury. In the six games he has played, he has only three catches for 18 yards. Not the most uplifting statistics for a guy in your neediest position group but the numbers prove when healthy he could be a strong piece in the Patriot offense.

Jeff Thomas — In addition to these tier lists, I’ve been doing undrafted free agent profiles. So when a UDFA arises on one of these lists I’ll keep it short and sweet.

In terms of talent at the wide receiver position, Jeff Thomas is top-four on this roster. There is a reason he is the darling of the local beat writers. He went undrafted because of his limited production (due mostly to the abysmal offenses he played in) and his off-the-field issues. If he can keep himself out of trouble and show some production prior to the season he’ll make the roster.

Longshots

Will Hastings — There is one simple reason Hastings makes the longshot category over the next one, his chemistry with Jarrett Stidham. They played together for a season at Auburn and connected 26 times for four touchdowns.

Quincy AdeboyejoAdeboyejo has only 21 NFL snaps under his belt and zero career receptions. He finished last season on the practice squad and will be a good body to have in camp.

Camp Body (No Chance in Hell)

Gunner OlszewskiI love “The Chef”™ as much as the next guy, but his role comes as a punt returner and unfortunately the Patriots just drafted another one who also projects as a defensive contributor in Kyle Dugger. I don’t see him growing enough in his second year at the position (he played defensive back in college) to make an NFL roster. He might catch on somewhere else as a returner, though.

Sean Riley — Riley is another punt returner type but he also has had success as a kick returner and receiver at Syracuse. The 5’8” burner (4.42 forty) was used as a gadget guy early on but developed into a pretty good receiver. His disadvantages come in his size and his underwhelming senior season. With 13 receivers entering camp he, like the others in this category, may not get a good enough chance to make the team.

Isaiah Zuber — Despite his unspectacular time in college and one dimensional playing style Zuber was given the biggest signing bonus among Patriot UDFA wide receivers, and second highest amongst UDFA wide receivers in all of the NFL. I see him getting a real shot but he will have to overtake the other guys at the position, I just don’t see it happening.

Devin RossRoss is entering his second season out of college but hasn’t been able to stick on an NFL roster. He spent time in Tennessee and Philadelphia before landing on the Patriots practice squad at the end of last season. He has a huge hill to climb if he wants to make this team.