After an abysmal season-and-a-half out of their wide receiver corps, the New England Patriots have made an effort to upgrade that spot within the offense. The team committed about $44.5 million over the next three seasons to receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor through free agency.
In 2020, the Patriots’ receivers produced 168 receptions for 2,043 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Bourne and Agholor combined for 97 receptions, 1,563 yards, and 10 touchdowns. In other words, the two new guys were good, the guys from 2020 were bad.
The only issue with the moves that have been made is that they solve specific problems within the offense, and they work within the immediate future only. The only way the Patriots can acquire a talent with long-term potential in a spot of need is through the draft, a place they have been spurned many times before.
Name: Amari Rodgers
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Clemson (Senior)
Opening day age: 21
2020 stats: 12 games; 77 catches, 1,020 yards, 7 touchdowns.
Size: 5’10”, 210 lbs
Expected round: 3rd-5th
#Patriots Draft Target Thread: WR #3 Amari Rodgers (Clemson) 5’10” 210lbs.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) April 3, 2021
• Slot receiver built like a running back.
• Strong after the catch, used as a YAC weapon in the Clemson offense.
• Release machine who can get open on his own. pic.twitter.com/ERha32Papt
Strengths: The first thing that jumps out when watching Rodgers is his build. At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, he initially looks more like a running back than a receiver, which works for him because he doesn’t concede any of the fluidity and speed that some guys might at that size.
Rodgers’ catch radius is a bit limited but he makes up for that with his strong hands. Here he is making and adjustment to the ball on the fly and snatching it out of the air. Good, solid WR work. pic.twitter.com/3WR2M4wEIR— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) April 3, 2021
That fluidity and speed translates extremely well into Rodgers’ ability to create separation, specifically on his release at the line of scrimmage. He switches up those releases, meaning he works with quick feet and strong hands to defeat a number of different coverage techniques — something that plays into that is his knowledge of defensive schemes and how to work against them, specifically zone. One of the most important tools to have as a slot receiver is how to work against zone, meaning you need to have an understanding of whose responsibility it is to be covering you at any point on the field, and working to find the “soft spots” where things can get lost in translation on the defensive side. Rodgers has a tremendous ability to do that.
Rodgers was extremely effective off the line throughout his college career. Here he is at the #SeniorBowl in 1-on-1’s (inherently advantageous for WR’s) putting a STUPID jab on the defender. A great rep. pic.twitter.com/eh1PuCXj6u— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) April 3, 2021
Finally, his skills after the catch. An incredibly physical runner, Rodgers will go around, over, or through defenders.
He was Clemson’s most effective receiver at the line of scrimmage, turning screens, slants, and motion plays into big gainers on a regular basis.
Weaknesses: There is a TON to like about Rodgers, but he’s a bit of a one-trick pony. As I just mentioned, he was great at the line of scrimmage but when venturing off beyond that, his production slipped tremendously. There is little to no hope he can stretch out past the slot receiver spot. That is where he will likely be pigeonholed as a receiver.
Other than that, there is a problem with the fact that some of the stuff Rodgers brings is the same everyone else does. In layman’s terms, he doesn’t completely separate himself from some of the other middle-round receivers in this draft.
What would be his role? Earlier, I mentioned that the Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor signings fit specific roles inside the offense. Bourne is an intermediate receiver who works best inside the numbers. Agholor is a vertical threat who plays best on the outside. Jakobi Meyers is a slot/Z receiver who can play a short or intermediate game, usually making a splash around the first down marker. N’Keal Harry is the physical big body guy that they SHOULD be using in the red zone and on jump balls. Rodgers would be the one thing they’re missing (Julian Edelman excluded), a true slot wide receiver.
Does he have positional versatility? He mostly played in the slot at Clemson, but Rodgers showed some positional versatility at his Pro Day when he ran through some running back drills.
There was a lot of talk about Rodgers working through some RB drills at his pro day. Those who watched him in college know that a potential foray into that field shouldn’t be a problem. pic.twitter.com/RhQyrJtwvu— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) April 3, 2021
Who’s his competition? It’s hard to say, especially since no one knows if Julian Edelman will be taking the field for the Patriots this fall. If he does, then Rodgers would be more of an insurance plan than competition. If Edelman isn’t ready, Rodgers will be working alongside Meyers early on.
Why the Patriots? The Patriots have addressed about 90 percent of their possible needs before the draft even started. When the draft does roll around, they will have few left to take care of and they all involve suring up the future at different positions. Drafting Rodgers would be shoring up the future of the slot position in New England.
Why not the Patriots? The Patriots already made two moves at wide receiver, many subscribe to the school of thought that the draft should be used to address positions that haven’t been paid any attention. Quarterback, cornerback, and offensive tackle are all bigger needs at this current time.
Verdict: Despite bigger needs at other positions, the Patriots will undoubtedly take a shot at the wide receiver spot during this year’s draft. The middle rounds will likely be the place that they do so, and Rodgers should be available. Patriots fans should be all for Amari Rodgers in New England.