With the third phase of voluntary offseason workouts underway, the New England Patriots are already fully “on to 2021.”
The team currently has 90 players under contract, but only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns in early September and ultimately make the active team. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots bounce back from what was a disappointing 7-9 season last year.
Today, the series kicks continues with wide receiver Jakobi Meyers.
Name: Jakobi Meyers
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 16
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2021 (2022 RFA)
What is his experience? Meyers’ tenure with the Patriots began when they signed him as a rookie free agent shortly after the 2019 draft. Despite his status as an unselected player, he earned practice reps as a rotational pass catcher during spring and training camp practices and eventually made New England’s 53-man roster as a depth option at wide receiver. Since then, Meyers has been a valuable member of the team’s offense: he has appeared in 29 NFL games and caught 85 passes for 1,088 yards.
While his pro-level experience is comparatively limited, Meyers did play plenty of football during his time at N.C. State. After joining the school as a quarterback, he transitioned to wide receiver a week before the start of his redshirt freshman campaign. His initial impact on the offense was limited, but he developed into a reliable receiving option for the team and finished his college career with 31 in-game appearances as well as 168 catches for 1,932 yards and nine touchdowns.
What did his 2020 season look like? Despite showing some promise as an undrafted rookie in 2019 and looking good in training camp as well, Meyers’ sophomore season was off to a slow start. The youngster played just 22 offensive snaps over the first three games of the year, catching one 7-yard pass along the way. He also did not see the field in Week 4 and Week 5. In Week 6, however, Meyers was able to turn his fortunes around — even though it took an injury suffered by fellow second-year man N’Keal Harry.
With Harry being unable to finish the game against the San Francisco 49ers due to a concussion, Meyers was given increased snaps alongside the nominal top-two, Damiere Byrd and Julian Edelman. He eventually finished the game as the Patriots’ leader in both receptions (4) and receiving yards (60). Even though he also was the target on two of Cam Newton interceptions, Meyers showed that he can be a productive player in an offense lacking reliable weapons at both the wide receiver and tight end positions.
Over the second half of the season, and even with Harry returning to the lineup, Meyers established himself as the number one receiving option in the Patriots’ passing game regardless of whether Newton or Jarrett Stidham were lining up under center. Following the game against San Francisco, he started 9 of 10 possible contests and rarely left the field — catching at least two passes in every game and notching an offensive playing time share of 96.8 percent (602 of 622).
Despite being a virtual non-factor over the first five games of the season, Meyers therefore finished the 2020 campaign as New England’s leader in targets, receptions and receiving yards: appearing in 14 total games and playing 665 of a possible 1,011 offensive snaps on the year (65.8%), Meyers caught 59 passes on 78 catchable targets for 729 yards. He also notched 9 yards on 2 combined rushing attempts and even was a factor as a trick play quarterback (filling a role previously played by Julian Edelman).
Meyers — a former college QB as mentioned above — was called upon to throw two passes and he completed both of them for 43 yards as well as two touchdowns: he hooked up for a 24-yard score with running back Rex Burkhead in Week 10 against Baltimore, and later also connected with Newton on a 19-yard touchdown pass versus New York in the season finale. All in all, Meyers’ 2020 campaign was therefore a successful continuation of the promise he showed as a rookie and a potential stepping stone towards an even bigger role.
What is his projected role? The Patriots regularly used Meyers both on the outside and in the slot over the course of his first two seasons in the league, and he generally responded well to being moved around the formation. Entering 2021, he therefore will likely again be employed in a similar fashion: the 24-year-old projects to see regular action a Z-receiver and to carve out a regular spot in the rotation alongside free agency acquisitions Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne as well as N’Keal Harry.
What is his special teams value? While undrafted players oftentimes find their way onto the Patriots’ roster through their special teams work, Meyers went a different route: he made the team despite not having any noticeable impact in the kicking game. In fact, he played a combined two snaps in the game’s third phase over the 2019 and 2020 seasons (plus three more in preseason) and did not register any statistics. Based on his track record he should therefore not be counted on to suddenly become a core contributor on special teams in Year 3.
Does he have positional versatility? The Patriots opted to give Meyers a variety of looks over the last two years. Not only did he align all over the formation — from the perimeter, to the slot, to the backfield — he also saw action beyond catching passes .The youngster registered a pair of carries for 9 combined yards, and proved himself a viable trick play quarterback: as noted above, Meyers went 2-for-2 as a passer with both completions turning into touchdowns.
What is his salary cap situation? Meyers signed a standard three-year undrafted rookie deal last spring, which means that he is on the Patriots’ books this season with a salary cap number of $853,334. This number currently puts him below the Top-51 threshold, however, meaning that his contract is currently not counting against New England’s cap and will only do so if he makes the team’s roster in September. In case he fails to do that, the Patriots would only take on a minimal dead money hit: Meyers has just $3,334 in guarantees — his signing bonus proration for the 2021 season — remaining on his deal.
What is his roster outlook? While his contract does not suggest Meyers is a lock to make the team, he very much appears to be in that category based on his contributions in 2020 and the chemistry he built with quarterback Cam Newton. He may not be the most impressive athlete the wide receiver position has to offer, but he is as steady as they come: Meyers was the Patriots’ most consistent wideout last year and should therefore be given another look as a top-three receiver this season as well.