The New England Patriots keep building around second-year quarterback Mac Jones. After drafting offensive lineman Cole Strange with their first-round pick on Thursday, they added a speedy wide receiver in Round 2.
Following a trade-up with the Kansas City Chiefs to get from No. 54 to No. 50, the Patriots ended up picking Tyquan Thornton out of Baylor. Let’s get to know him.
Name: Tyquan Thornton
School: Baylor (Senior)
Position: Wide receiver
Opening day age: 22
Size: 6-foot-2, 181 lbs, 33 1/4 arm, 79 1/4 wingspan, 8 1/4 hand
Measurements: 4.28 40-yard dash, 36 1/2” vertical jump, 10’10” broad jump, 4.39 short shuttle, 7.25 3-cone, N/A bench press
Career: A four-star recruit out of high school, Thornton arrived at Baylor in 2018 and spent his entire four-year college career in Waco. Along the way he showed some steady growth, delivering his most productive season as a senior in 2021. That year, Thornton appeared in 14 games for the Bears and caught 62 passes for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns. The team’s leading receiver, he was named second-team All-Big 12.
All in all, Thornton ended his career at Baylor with 47 in-game appearances and 143 receptions. He was invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl following his senior campaign.
Strengths: Thornton has elite speed and ran the fastest 40-yard dash at this year’s Scouting Combine at 4.28 seconds. He can absolutely fly and furthermore has the length to outreach defenders on deep passing attempts. He is a veritable deep threat with excellent awareness and concentration when playing on the perimeter.
Tyquan *Thornton's rare speed can definitely put fear in defenses who wanna load the box on early downs— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) April 30, 2022
Eats cushion and pulls away quickly vs off, beats press using pace and deception off the line
Like the ball tracking and finish on under throws pic.twitter.com/GwRwaipQQP
Weaknesses: Thornton’s size is a concern. While he is tall at 6-foot-2, he weighed only 181 pounds at the Combine and has some of the smallest hands among this year’s wide receiver prospects. He also is not the most agile guy as evidenced by his 7.25 three-cone time; Thornton is a vertical player more so than a horizontal one.
What is his projected role in New England? Thornton served as a classic X-receiver at Baylor, and the expectation is that he will be playing the same basic role in New England. The Patriots do like to move their wideouts around, and the 21-year-old will likely not be an exception, but no matter where he lines up one thing is obvious: he has the straight-line speed to take the top off of defenses from any spot in the lineup.
Where does he fit on the wide receiver depth chart? The Patriots’ current outside wide receiver group is headed by trade acquisition DeVante Parker, with Nelson Agholor also an option to consider as an X/Z hybrid. Thornton would serve as the number three behind those two veterans initially — further pushing former first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry down the depth chart — before ideally taking on a more prominent role in Year 2.
Does he have positional versatility? While Thornton’s lack of short-area quickness will likely limit his ability to play on the inside, his impressive speed makes him an option as a ball-carrier on select plays. He also has some special teams upside — more on that in a second — and even threw a 6-yard touchdown pass last season. He is not the most flexible player but also no one-trick pony.
What is his special teams value? Thornton has some experience in the kicking game, having returned eight kickoffs throughout his career at Baylor for an average of 17.3 yards per runback. The majority of those attempts came during his freshman year, but New England might give him an opportunity to earn that gig as a rookie.
What does it mean for New England’s draft outlook? The Patriots’ only true need at the wide receiver position was a developmental X — something they addressed by drafting Thornton. While they might add more depth at the position in free agency, it would be a surprise if they used another draft pick on a wideout. Besides him and the aforementioned Parker and Agholor, the team also has Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers under contract as roster locks.
One-sentence verdict: The Patriots spoke about adding speed to their team earlier during the offseason, and few players in this year’s draft are faster than Thornton.
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