2021 Senior Bowl is swimming in wide receiver options for Patriots

Phil Perry
·7 min read

Perry: Senior Bowl swimming in WR options for Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Senior Bowl has only just gotten off the ground this week, and yet it's already been a rousing success for the Patriots in one respect. 

The receivers. They're everywhere. And they're good. 

We know where the Patriots stand at that position at the moment. Julian Edelman is under contract, but he'll be 35 next season after ending 2020 on injured reserve. N'Keal Harry is still waiting to carve out a regular role going into his third year. Jakobi Meyers had a breakout year, though his ceiling might be that of a third option. 

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If the Patriots are looking to get more explosive at that spot, Mobile, Alabama isn't a bad place for them to be right now. Through just two days of practices, there's been plenty of talent on display. The pass-catchers have come in all shapes and sizes, but they continue to turn in highlight after highlight on social media. 

Here's a sampling of some of their work, starting with the outside-the-numbers types. . . 

Nico Collins has a chance to improve his draft stock this week after opting out of the 2020 season in Ann Arbor. The Michigan man checked in at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds this week.

At 6-foot-3, 217 pounds, Florida's Trevon Grimes doesn't have the kind of juice to go early in the draft. But he knows what he's doing from a footwork perspective, as he showed Syracuse's Ifeatu Melifonwu (one of the best athletes in Mobile) here. 

Josh Palmer didn't light it up at Tennessee, but that might've been more a byproduct of his quarterback play than anything else. He has ability. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds and with low-4.4 speed, he's showing at the Senior Bowl that he has the ability to stand out even among a gifted receiver group. 

Clemson's Cornell Powell might not have popped up on your radar until the College Football Playoff, but he's opening some eyes this week with his physicality and start-stop ability. 

Sage Surratt has a solid frame (6-2, 215) and has the ability to climb the ladder, focus and finish big plays down the field. He opted out of the 2020 season so he has an opportunity to help himself in a major way this week. 

Now let's dig into some playmakers who might fit better for New England if they were to work from the interior . . . 

Western Michigan's D'Wayne Eskridge can't be considered a sleeper much longer. He's been that impressive in just a couple days of work at the Senior Bowl. For more on him, listen to the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast.

Another favorite of the Next Pats pod is South Dakota State's Cade Johnson. At 5-10, 186 pounds he looks more like a slot receiver. But here he makes one of the best plays of the week on the outside.

Clemson's Amari Rodgers is a name most will remember from the 2020 season. He's one of the shortest receivers at the Senior Bowl (5-9) but he plays bigger than that, and at 211 pounds he has the ability to fight through contact both before and after the catch.

South Carolina has had plenty of receiver talent walk off campus in recent years, and Shi Smith is just the next in line. Another undersized (5-10, 186) attacker of the football, Smith is tough and a polished route-runner.

More speed. More yards-after-the-catch ability from the slot. Like Eskridge, Marquez Stevenson from Houston will have the ability to bring a vertical element to a team's passing game while lining up inside. 

Florida's Kadarius Toney might be the best player at the Senior Bowl. Quicker than fast and measuring in at 5-11, 189 pounds, he's an ideal slot option. He has the acceleration to run a variety of change-of-direction routes from the interior, and when he has the ball in his hands . . . he's a problem. He had issues holding onto the ball Wednesday, but there's no question he knows how to get open.

Tylan Wallace from Oklahoma State (5-11, 193) is right on the cusp of what the Patriots have typically drafted size-wise to play on the outside. But he's worked over the middle comfortably this week in Mobile, which could help teams project him as a nice inside-out option. The Patriots do appreciate versatility in their pass-catchers so worth keeping an eye on him.