With their wide receiver position among the least productive in the league last season, the New England Patriots were prompted to make aggressive moves in free agency. One potential upgrade brought on board was Nelson Agholor: a former Philadelphia Eagles first-round draft pick, Agholor entered free agency off an impressive one-year stint with the Las Vegas Raiders — earning himself a two-year, $22 million contract.
Agholor’s skills as a deep-field wide receiver are well-documented, but one of his most impressive traits is his ability to stay on the field. He did miss some time due to injury in the past, but still appeared in 132 out of a possible 142 combined college and pro games (one of his absences came after getting benched back in 2016).
With that said, let’s take a closer look at it to find out what his medical record means from the Patriots’ perspective.
2013 (USC): Agholor ended his three-year college career with the Trojans having played 40 out of 40 games, but that does not mean he passed through the program without some bruises: he injured his ribs during a 2013 game against Notre Dame. However, the then-sophomore did not miss any playing time and was able to catch six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown the following week against Utah.
2015 (Scouting Combine): One of the best wide receivers to enter the 2015 draft, Agholor was invited to the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. However, his experience was cut short after he dislocated the middle finger on his left hand during a receiving drill.
2015 (Eagles): Agholor was able to play 13 games during his 2015 rookie season in Philadelphia, but he had to miss some time after suffering a high-ankle sprain in mid-October. After sitting out three games and also spending the Eagles’ bye week rehabbing, he returned to the field during a mid-November loss versus Miami. Agholor caught three passes for 32 yards that day.
Later that season, he again popped up on the injury report. Agholor was dealing with a hip ailment leading up to Philadelphia’s game in New England and ended up playing a season-low 33 offensive snaps. He finished the contest with zero catches on two passes thrown his way.
2016 (Eagles): While he did miss one game after getting benched, Agholor was able to appear in all other 15 games during the 2016 season. However, he was forced to exit the regular season finale versus the Dallas Cowboys after just six snaps and no catches: the second-year wideout hurt his ankle and was shut down for the day.
2019 (Eagles): Agholor was able to avoid major injury following the high-ankle sprain he suffered as a rookie, but a knee injury suffered in Week 6 versus the Minnesota Vikings proved to be a nagging issue. He was able to appear in the next four games without any visible limitations, but aggravated the injury in mid-November versus the Patriots. He played in only one out of seven possible games afterwards, but was not placed on injured reserve as the Eagles took a week-to-week approach.
2020 (Raiders): After ending his 2019 season on the sidelines, Agholor signed with the Raiders in the offseason and was able to play all 16 of his new team’s games. Nonetheless, he did apparently suffer an injury at one point: during an overtime loss against the Los Angeles Chargers in December, Agholor seemed to have dislocated his finger while trying to catch a pass. The finger was popped back in on the sidelines, and he returned to the game after sitting out one play. Agholor finished with four catches for 49 yards — two of the receptions came after the injury.
What this means for the Patriots
His 2015 high-ankle sprain and 2019 knee ailment stand out, but Agholor’s injury history as a whole is not overly concerning. The veteran wideout was able to participate in the vast majority of games over his six seasons in the NFL, and does not have any long-term medical issues on his résumé. New England can therefore feel good about its investment from this perspective.
Things can obviously change quickly in the NFL, but the Patriots should not be worried about Agholor’s availability coming off a season in which he played 16 games and was among the most productive pass catchers in football. If he can build on this foundation, the team’s struggling passing game will be a better one in 2021.