The New England Patriots invested a first-round draft selection in their wide receiver position just last year, picking up N’Keal Harry with the 32nd overall pick in 2019. Two season into his NFL career, however, Harry has still not been able to live up to the expectations associated with his draft status.
After catching a mere 12 passes as a rookie, he did not fare much better in 2020: Harry finished the season with only 33 receptions in 14 games for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
His lack of production is 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 the draft, the offensive skill positions are certainly an area for potential upgrades. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler agrees with this perspective, and therefore has the Patriots pick another wideout in the first round in his latest mock draft:
15. New England Patriots — Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The Patriots will examine several quarterback options this offseason, but it might not matter much unless they add more playmakers. Waddle and his special athleticism would be an instant shot of adrenaline for the offense.
The third wide receiver to come off the board in Brugler’s mock after Heisman Trophy winner and teammate DeVonta Smith (No. 3 to Miami) as well as LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase (No. 6 to Philadelphia), Waddle is one of the top pass catchers available in this year’s draft. Given that and Alabama’s close connection to the Patriots, it would not be a surprise to see the 5-foot-10, 180-pound wideout end up in New England.
For more on Waddle, let’s refer to Pats Pulpit’s own Keagan Stiefel, who had to say the following about the receiver earlier this season:
Jaylen Waddle is the perfect answer to New England’s problems as he’s the next man in a long line of stud receivers to come out of Alabama. Waddle is everything that the Patriots don’t have at receiver behind Julian Edelman, a burner who can create separation in a phone booth if need be. He’s made a name for himself in his early career as a deep threat, averaging 17 yards per catch and plays at his best when the play breaks down, being Tua Tagovailoa’s top target in the scramble drill. He also just so happens to be the best returner in college football.
Waddle fits the Patriots mold, has all of the tools that their current receiving corp lacks, and has the ability to contribute immediately. He’s a dream prospect of sorts for New England.
Unless the Patriots opt to address their wide receiver position differently, or if they plan to go after a quarterback in Round One, Waddle appears to be a realistic target — despite New England having invested a first-round pick in N’Keal Harry just two years ago.