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Patriots bolster their wide receiver position in new 2021 NFL mock draft

Related: College football players to watch for: Week 14

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 07 Minnesota at Illinois Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Just last spring, the New England Patriots invested a first-round draft selection in their wide receiver position by bringing N’Keal Harry aboard with the 32nd overall pick. Halfway through his second regular season in the NFL, however, Harry has still not been able to live up to his draft status: he has caught just 26 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns while essentially serving as New England’s number three wide receiver.

That’s not ideal and one of the reasons why the position again might be in the spotlight heading into the 2021 offseason. While a lot can and will change between now and next year’s draft, the offensive skill positions are certainly an area for potential upgrades — something Trevor Sikkema of the The Draft Network also believes as his latest mock draft shows: the Patriots, currently owning the 16th selection, are picking a wide receiver.

16. Patriots

Rashod Bateman

WR, Minnesota

Even with no Kyle Pitts on the board, I don’t think the Patriots would look too far outside of Pitts’ position for an offensive upgrade. Bateman isn’t an all-world athlete, but he’s smooth, technical, and reliable in many ways at many positions as a receiver. There’s a good chance Bateman would instantly be WR1 in New England for Newton and that passing game.

Bateman, who recently decided to forgo the rest of the season after a Covid-19 outbreak at Minnesota, has been a productive player for the Golden Gophers this year: despite appearing in only five games, he has caught 36 passes for 472 yards and a pair of touchdowns — leading the team in all three categories. Productivity is definitely a plus, but how about his potential fit with the Patriots?

Let’s turn to Pats Pulpit’s own Keagan Stiefel and his College Players to watch-series to find out. He wrote the following about Bateman in nearly November:

Rashod Bateman is a love him or leave him kind of prospect. He possesses great tools and size (6’1”, 210 lbs) to be a top line explosive receiver but his play strength is a real question, making many wonder where he would fit at the next level. He’s a fluid route runner with strong hands but has struggled mightily in press man coverage. He’s not going to create great separation but will come down with the 50/50 ball.

Bateman reminds me a lot of Jakobi Meyers but he’s made more explosive plays throughout his college career. Both have the ability to play inside and outside and work better against zone coverage than man. Bateman is physically more impressive but that’s not always something that relays into being more successful on field at the next level. Bateman is pretty much locked in as a top 5 receiver in this draft but I’d have him a bit lower. It will be interesting to see how he’s used as the season goes on.

Bateman is expected to come off the board within the first two rounds, with a realistic chance to become a first-round selection. Would the Patriots be willing to invest in him? That’s the big question, and one the team’s current receiving corps will help answer over the next few weeks.