The New England Patriots’ wide receiver position was a mixed bag in 2021. While Jakobi Meyers and free agency acquisition Kendrick Bourne showed some impressive chemistry with rookie quarterback Mac Jones, the performance of the rest of the group ranged from up-and-down to virtually nonexistent.
As a result, the Patriots went out and added some help: New England acquired former first-round draft pick DeVante Parker via trade from the Miami Dolphins. With Parker and versatile free agency pickup Ty Montgomery in the fold, the position group currently looks as follows:
- Jakobi Meyers: 26 | Signed through 2022
- Kendrick Bourne: 27 | Signed through 2023
- DeVante Parker: 29 | Signed through 2023
- Nelson Agholor: 29 | Signed through 2022
- N’Keal Harry: 25 | Signed through 2022
- Ty Montgomery: 29 | Signed through 2023
- Kristian Wilkerson: 25 | Signed through 2022
- Tre Nixon: 24 | Signed through 2022
- Malcolm Perry: 25 | Signed through 2022
- Matthew Slater: 37 | Signed through 2022
While the top of the depth chart appears set in stone, the Patriots remain in the market for some wide receiver help. They could look at the remaining free agents crop or the trade market, but more likely than not will go the draft route if they want to improve the depth and long-term outlook at the position.
Luckily for New England there are multiple players that would fit what the team is looking for throughout the draft. They could address the position as early as the first round, or wait for some later-round additions.
(Just for clarity’s sake: players are listed alphabetically within their respective groups)
Drake London, USC: London offers an intriguing combination of size and athleticism and as a result is expected to be one of the first, if not the first, wide receivers to come off the board this year. Whether or not the Patriots will move up the board to get him can be questioned, but if he falls into their range it would at least be a consideration: London, after all, would give Mac Jones a high-upside perimeter target that has serious WR1 potential.
Jameson Williams, Alabama: Despite coming off a torn ACL suffered during in the National Championship Game in January, Williams will be drafted in Round 1 later this month. His game-breaking speed, after all, will be a challenge to defenses and give the team adding him a serious deep threat that can stretch the field and open up space underneath. Adding him to New England’s passing game would instantly make it a better one. | Full draft profile
Garrett Wilson, Ohio State: A precise route-runner who offers considerable yards-after-the-catch abilities, Wilson joins Drake London and Jameson Williams as the top three receiver prospects this year. His agility is top-notch and he has a knack for getting open against all types of defensive backs or coverages. An argument can be made that no other wideout in this year’s draft class has as high a floor and is as pro-ready as him.
Targets at No. 21
Treylon Burks, Arkansas: Burks comes with some clear question marks related to his route-running and overall rawness, but his combination of size and speed is legitimate. If the Patriots feel comfortable in his development and how to use him — he might be best served in a Cordarrelle Patterson-type role — they might just invest their first-round pick in him.
Chris Olave, Ohio State: A lack of size — he measured at 6-foot-0, 187 pounds at the Combine — and play strength will hurt Olave in some eyes, but he is still a very good player capable of becoming a number one wideout at the next level. After all, he is a high-floor player who can slide right into a starting Z-receiver role at the next level and be productive right away thanks to his well-rounded skillset and technical proficiency. | Full draft profile
Day 2 targets
Jahan Dotson, Penn State: Dotson may lack the size and strength of other top-tier wideouts but he is a dynamic player capable of becoming a difference-maker at the NFL level. His playmaking skills out of the slot would make him a potential long-term Jakobi Meyers replacement if the Patriots do not retain him next offseason.
John Metchie III, Alabama: Metchie combines good hands with some advanced route-running, and has a background with Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. His average size and speed plus the fact that he is coming off a torn ACL, however, will hurt this draft stock. New England would get a reliable but not necessarily flashy player when drafting him.
Skyy Moore, Western Michigan: Moore has “go-to-guy” written all over him due to his reliable hands and savvy route running. He will serve as a safety blanket and priority target on must-have plays at the next level — two things New England still lacks despite the promise shown by the Jones-Bourne and Jones-Meyers connections last year. | Full draft profile
Alec Pierce, Cincinnati: Even though his route tree is limited and there will be questions about his ability to compete against press-man cornerbacks, Pierce is an intriguing Day 2 target due to his upside. He has the size and speed to turn into a productive outside receiver and challenge defenses deep.
George Pickens, Georgia: A torn ACL suffered during spring practices last year limited Pickens to just five catches for 107 yards in his four in-game appearances last year. That said, his potential is considerable and he has shown how to hold his own versus some of the best cornerbacks in the nation. A fluid athlete who can line up all over the formation, the 21-year-old is a high-upside wideout.
Christian Watson, North Dakota State: Arguably the highest-ceiling wide receiver in this year’s class, Watson’s potential is off the charts. He has the size and speed to become a legitimate WR1 at the next level. His FCS background makes him a bit of an uncertain projection, but he might be worth the investment for a team with an established cast of characters at wide receiver already under contract. | Full draft profile
Day 3 targets/Free agency targets
Calvin Austin III, Memphis: Measuring below 5-foot-8 and weighing just 170 pounds, Austin is undersized by conventional standards. That said, his quickness is terrific and he can take the top off a defense when attacking downfield. His potential as a return man also cannot be denied.
Britain Covey, Utah: A lower-ceiling Calvin Austin, Covey projects as a late-round selection who needs to be used correctly to find success in the NFL. One way to maximize his strengths — acceleration and vision — is by using him in the return game. | Full draft profile
Slade Bolden, Alabama: Bolden knows how to get open in the short and intermediate parts of the field, and has some experience with Mac Jones from their time together at Alabama. While his limited athleticism could hurt his outlook, he might turn into a solid if unspectacular chain-mover in the NFL. | Full draft profile
Bo Melton, Rutgers: Melton’s production at Rutgers was nothing to write home about, but he is a savvy route-runner who possesses the necessary burst off the line of scrimmage to find success against NFL-level press-man cornerbacks. If used correctly, he could become a productive possession receiver for an offense like the Patriots’.
Kyle Philips, UCLA: Likely an earlier pick on Day 3, Phillips could come in and contribute right away. Not only is he an experienced return man, he also offers the route-running skills and physicality necessary to become a starting slot receiver in the NFL.
The trade to acquire DeVante Parker did not solve all of New England’s wide receiver issues, but it gave the team some flexibility entering the draft. A top four at the position consisting of Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor is quite solid, especially in the context of an offense that also will prominently feature tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith in 2022.
Accordingly, the Patriots not picking a wide receiver in Round 1 would not be a surprise. Instead, them waiting for Day 2 or maybe even Day 3 to address the position is a realistic outcome. The goal, after all, is not necessarily to find a wide receiver capable of starting right away but rather a player to develop into a contributor while still on a rookie contract — possibly taking over for Meyers or Agholor if they leave as free agents next spring.