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Sunday Patriots Notes: It’s a great year for New England to need a wide receiver

Related: NFL Scouting Combine results: Wide receivers put on a show on Thursday

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl Classic-Cincinnati at Alabama Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

We are finally in full offseason mode, and the NFL Scouting Combine is taking place in Indianapolis this week. The New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia were among those in attendance, getting an up-close look at some of the draft’s top talent and likely also doing some behind-the-scenes work on free agency.

With the new league year kicking off in only 10 days, it’s about to get real busy for the Patriots. With all that in mind, let’s dig into our Sunday Notes.

1. It’s a good year for the Patriots to need wide receiver help. It is no secret that New England will be looking to add a receiver through the draft this year. When and where? That is to be seen, but the Patriots have done their research on some of the top ones in the class.

Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, Treylon Burks and John Metchie all met with the team in Indianapolis. Now, we all know it is common for teams to meet with just about every player on their draft board and some meetings remain private, but it’s clear that the Patriots may be looking to invest in this position early on in the 2022 draft.

The Patriots have drafted just two wide receivers since 2017, N’Keal Harry and Tre Nixon. After spending big money to improve their room last year with Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor, it’s time to invest a high pick in a future WR1 for Mac Jones. Luckily for the team, this year’s draft class is one of the deepest in recent memory at the position.

2. Ronnie Perkins is poised for a big 2022. The Patriots received strong rookie seasons from Mac Jones, Christian Barmore and Rhamondre Stevenson, but we never got a chance to see Ronnie Perkins. A third-round pick last year, Perkins was effectively redshirted in 2021.

With a lot of moving pieces along the Patriots’ front, however, Perkins has a chance to carve out a prominent role on the New England defense in his sophomore year. Perkins is reportedly staying in the area for the offseason, working at EPS Strength where a lot of current and former Patriots train in the off-season.

Perkins brings some speed and power and therefore appears to have a real opportunity to pair up with Matthew Judon as the one-two punch on the defensive edge.

3. J.C. Jackson might be headed elsewhere. From the looks of it, star cornerback J.C. Jackson might be playing football elsewhere in 2022 and beyond. The Patriots have until Tuesday to place the franchise tag on him, but per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, it doesn’t seem like this is the case and that he will enter free agency.

It’s certainly a strategy we have seen before with the Patriots and how they handle big-name free agents: go out and test the market, and come back to us with what you get and we’ll see if we can match it. However, with the Patriots having just under $5 million in cap space at the moment, and with Jackson being just 26 years old, it is unlikely the team will be able to match any of the offers the Pro Bowler will receive.

It’s been a debacle with how the Patriots have handled the cornerback position the last few years. Just two years ago, they had two top-five corners in Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson. Now, there is a chance that both will be gone and New England will have received only a sixth and likely third-round compensatory pick in the 2023 draft for both of them.

Jackson departing would also leave the Patriots super thin at cornerback without a true No. 1 and No. 2 currently on the roster. With a top-heavy cornerback class coming out of college, however, this could be a tip that the Patriots go corner in the first round in April’s draft.

4. Mac Jones is back in Alabama. Last month, the Patriots’ starting quarterback spoke about his offseason goals of “getting stronger and cleaning up on my diet.” In order to achieve them he returned to his alma mater, the University of Alabama.

Jones was filmed by Crimson Tide associate strength and conditioning coach Josh Hampton going through workouts:

5. Jarrett Stidham apparently didn’t think the Patriots would draft him. Nevada quarterback Carson Strong shared a story about New England backup Jarrett Stidham during a press conference at the Combine. Apparently, Stidham did not think he would get selected by the team in 2019 based on their pre-draft interaction.

“A lot of people will tell you the teams you think like you aren’t going to be the ones that take you,” Strong said. “Jarrett Stidham, he’s a quarterback with the Patriots and worked with Jordan [Palmer], and he told us a story about how he had an interview with the Patriots and it went terrible.

“They showed up the night before his pro day, but then left. They didn’t even stay to watch his pro day. And they’re the team that ended up drafting him.”

The Patriots ended up picking Stidham in the fourth round in 2019. Moving between the second and third spot on the depth chart, the 25-year-old has appeared in eight games so far in his career with no starts. Stidham has completed half of his passes for 270 yards as well as two touchdowns and four interceptions. With Brian Hoyer headed for unrestricted free agency, Stidham is currently New England’s QB2 behind Mac Jones.

Sunday Patriots Mailbag

It’s a good draft for the Patriots to not just need help at wide receiver, but linebacker as well. Devin Lloyd and Nakobe Dean will likely be gone prior to their pick at No. 21, so it’s almost a given that the Patriots will wait until Day 2 to address the position.

There are a few names that come to my mind for me when looking at linebackers and who fits stylistically while also meeting the size requirement New England typically looks for at the position.

Christian Harris out of Alabama would be a slam dunk at any point on Day 2, for example. A three-year starter for Alabama that is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds that can run in the 4.4s, he’s a physical, downhill linebacker that can be used in a variety of ways. He’s arguably the best coverage linebacker in the class while also showing a strong ability to play the run and get after the quarterback.

Some others to keep in mind in that round 2-3 range are Chad Muma (Wyoming), Quay Walker (Georgia), Darrian Beavers (Cincinnati) and Brandon Smith (Penn State). They all would make sense for New England, too.

I don’t, but if they did and I had to say which of the two would be more likely, it would have to be Brandin Cooks considering his experience in New England and a asking price that would be much cheaper than Calvin Ridley’s. However, I think the Patriots like their wide receiver room more than a lot of fans think.

The main goal for them this offseason should be to draft and develop a receiver to give Mac Jones some cheap help now and going forward.

Christian Watson certainly made himself some more money on Thursday night. The Senior Bowl standout, who the Patriots met with in Mobile, tested like an athletic freak. His 4.36 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4, 208 pounds was one of the best times in the class.

Watson is a big-bodied receiver that consistently made big plays at the collegiate level and can certainly play the X for the Patriots and be a threat down the field. He will likely hear his name called somewhere late on Day 2/early on Day 3 and could certainly help the Patriots at that position from the moment he steps foot on the field.

Chris Olave ran so Jameson Williams could fall to the Patriots...

If the Patriots choose to go wide receiver in the first round and Jameson Williams is available at No. 21, you sprint to the podium and submit that pick as fast as possible. It’s still too early to tell which way the Patriots lean in Round 1, but if I had to guess, it’d be cornerback, wide receiver or even offensive tackle at that spot.

Williams is a top-10 talent and ahead of schedule rehabbing his torn ACL. The fact he couldn’t test at the combine may have helped his chances of being there for the Patriots.