A recent Reddit comment in response to the Patriots’ elevation of Jalen Reagor to the practice squad said that:
Patriots have had at least 1 underperforming first round WR on their team since before they drafted Harry lol (might not be every single year I am too lazy to double check)
I am not too lazy. Let’s dive in.
In 2000, the only first-round receiver the Pats had was Terry Glenn ('96, NE, 7th). Though never a star, Glenn was the Pats' #1 receiver and his stats backed up that mantle (79/963/6 that year – at the time, those were Glenn's 2nd, 3rd, and T-1st best performances in those categories). I wouldn't say he fits the "underperforming" label.
Glenn played only briefly in '01 due to suspensions, but the true UFO (that's U for Underperforming or Unfresh, i.e. old; F for First; and O because it's Round) that year was the late Charles Johnson ('94, PIT, 17th). Johnson had three decent years in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (broke 60 catches twice, 800 yards twice – including a 1K year – and had 7 touchdowns twice) but was never a #1 option. 2001 was his only season as a Pat; he caught 14 passes for 111 yards and 1 touchdown, but he was memorably one of the first on the field to celebrate Adam Vinatieri's Super Bowl-winning kick. (Watch the clips and see how front and center #81 is.) Johnson played one more season in Buffalo to conclude his career.
No UFO sightings in 2002, but '03 saw the final season in the career of J.J. Stokes ('95, SF, 10th). Eight years in San Francisco never saw Stokes reach the heights his top-ten selection demanded, a 63/770/8 '98 campaign hitting career highs for him all around. The Pats brought in Stokes for a couple stints late in 2003 and, playing in two games, he caught just two passes for 38 yards; he should have had a third for a touchdown, but was robbed when the referees ruled the clearly in-bounds Stokes out of bounds. Did get a ring though, and after Stokes was released by the Pats in August '04, that was it for his career.
The Pats didn't have a UFO until 2009, but they were close a couple times. The team brought in Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney in 2006; both entered the 2002 draft out of Florida and both went in the second round, Caldwell with the 16th pick of that round and Gaffney with the 1st. Neither of the first-rounders brought in in 2007, Randy Moss ('98, MIN, 21st) and Donté Stallworth ('02, NO, 13th), were anything close to underperformers – though they also brought in tight end Kyle Brady ('95, NYJ, 9th) that year, whom the Jets infamously took despite the fans' "WE WANT SAPP!!" chants.
But the UFO brought in that season was one of the biggest flops in New England: Joey Galloway (‘95, SEA, 8th). After three consecutive 1,000-plus yard seasons from 2005-7, Galloway caught just 13 passes for 138 yards in 2008 before joining the Patriots for the following season. Despite his once-top-flight status, he played in just three games, catching seven passes for 67 yards, before his October release.
The following season, New England had Torry Holt (‘99, STL, 6th) with the team during the offseason, but he wound up on injured reserve and then released. Two years later, they brought in Stallworth and Anthony Gonzalez (‘07, IND, 32nd; R-OH) in 2012, but neither made the roster. Yet after Julian Edelman was injured during the Buttfumble game, the Pats re-signed Stallworth, who promptly suited up for the "letterman jackets" game. He caught one pass – a 63-yard touchdown – and immediately went to injured reserve, never playing in the regular season again.
It took another four seasons for the Patriots to add a UFO to the roster...
EDIT: Another Reddit commenter reminded me that I omitted the offseason tenure of ex-Colt and Peyton Manning favorite Reggie Wayne ('01, IND, 30th), who signed with the Pats in 2015 and lazed his way out before the season commenced.
...an opportunity that came suddenly when the Cardinals released Michael Floyd (‘12, ARI, 13th). The Patriots claimed him off waivers (sorry, Griff Whalen) and Floyd made an immediate impact in the season finale against Miami, catching a 14-yard touchdown pass and springing a MONSTAHBLOK against Tony Lippett on Edelman’s 77-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, Floyd wasn’t able to make much of an impact in the playoffs and had only 20 catches the rest of his career.
2017 saw a first-round invasion at WR. Although no one would say Brandin Cooks (‘14, NO, 20th) was an underperformer or past his prime, Phillip Dorsett (‘15, IND, 29th) certainly was, with a combined 51/753/3 slash line over his first two seasons. Dorsett played three seasons in New England and carved out a respectable role, catching 114 passes and 8 touchdowns (plus two in the 2018 playoffs) during his Foxboro tenure. And at the end of the season, the Pats brought in Kenny Britt (‘09, TEN, 30th); his two catches in New England closed out his career.
The Pats didn’t bring in any external UFOs again until 2021’s signing of Nelson Agholor (‘15, PHI, 20th), long-loathed in Philadelphia but coming off a career year as a Raider (48/896/8). He was just as much a disappointment in two years as a Patriot as he was as an Eagle, catching a combined 68 passes for 835 yards and 5 touchdowns in New England and continuing his career-long predilection for drops.
In 2022 the Patriots briefly had Laquon Treadwell (‘16, MIN, 23rd) on the practice squad but he never made it into a game before his release. Their main WR acquisition was another UFO in DeVante Parker (‘15, MIA, 14th), who caught just 31 passes for 539 yards and 3 scores in 2022. This year, as the team’s *de facto* #1 WR, he has been even worse, through six games catching just 14 passes for 144 yards.
And now we have Reagor (‘20, PHI, 21st), whom the Eagles passed on Justin Jefferson to take and who now is on his third team. Reagor is already cutting into Parker’s snaps on the outside. Might he carve out a Dorsett-like role, or will he quickly end up off the roster here too? We’ll soon find out. Let's hope for success.