The New England Patriots are in the wide receiver market, and might very well address the position as early as the first round in this month’s draft. The question is which of the top prospects will be available when the club is on the clock at No. 14.
Turns out, it might be all of them.
According to Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, after all, the NFL “isn’t nearly as high on this year’s WR class” as the media appears to be. Nagy added that he had spoken to “numerous teams that have only one first-round grade at the position.”
The player in question is Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, one of four wide receivers that have been popular first-round picks in mock drafts and big boards all over the internet.
Smith-Njigba indeed looks like a lock to get drafted in the first round, and very well might be gone by the team the Patriots are on the clock. The same might not be true for the other top wideouts regularly projected as Day 1 selections, though: USC’s Jordan Addison, TCU’s Quentin Johnson, and Boston College’s Zay Flowers.
From a Patriots perspective, this appears to be good news. If the league as a whole is not enthusiastic about the talent available at wide receiver compared to other positions, New England might still be able to grab one of the better players later on Day 1 or early on Day 2.
That said, those pre-draft grades might ultimately not reflect post-draft reality.
Even if NFL talent evaluators are bearish on wide receiver stock this year, the position itself is still a highly important one in the league today (especially for teams lacking elite talent at the quarterback position). As a consequence of this, combined with a rather uninspiring class of free agents, it would not be a surprise to see several wideouts get over-drafted relative to Nagy’s report.
As with all things NFL Draft, of course, only time will tell. However, it does look like the wide receiver position has the potential to yield some surprising results later this month.