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.
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.
Nico Collins with one of the best reps of the day
— Inside release, forearm pull to get rid of the jam by the CB
— Lean in to stack, enough of a hip shift at the top of the route to make the CB hesitate
— Track the ball over the shoulder and toe-tap on the sideline #SeniorBowl pic.twitter.com/xAbIg6u4fc
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) January 27, 2021
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.
In his first Senior Bowl 1vs1 practice, Florida's WR Trevon Grimes showed his potential as a projected day 3 pick. He has below average speed, but he brings to the table solid route running, physicality and ball skills. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/L2D7YOsA5d
— Luca Sartirana (@SartiranaLuca) January 27, 2021
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.
Josh Palmer vs Bryan Mills
Palmer's shifts gears mid-way through his vertical stem. Mills opens the gate attempting to turn & run, Palmer, explodes across his face towards the goal post!
Palmer will remain a sleeper receiver in this class! ✍️ pic.twitter.com/JDmPz9ZPf8
— Damian Parson 🏈 (@DP_NFL) January 27, 2021
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.
— Marc Whiteman (@MarcWYFFNews4) January 27, 2021
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.
WRs in the NFL have to win through contact at all phases. One of the things I loved most about @WakeFB WR Sage Surratt. Playing thru the Jersey tug at the catch point here and winning above the rim. Check his bio - he’s got experience with that! #GoDeacs pic.twitter.com/IZOpZ1AFRl
— Fran Duffy (@EaglesXOs) January 27, 2021
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.
It is easy to see that Eskridge is such a smart player. He knows where he has leverage and that his release needs to be inside, which sets up the route with ease.
Smooth as butter, bruh. pic.twitter.com/pf63miwwVq
— Kane Fossell (@Devy_Kane) January 27, 2021
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.
— Rivals (@Rivals) January 27, 2021
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.
— Steve Frederick (@_SteveFrederick) January 27, 2021
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.
Shi Smith is putting on a SHOW at the Senior Bowl🔥 pic.twitter.com/oypntuXXGp
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 27, 2021
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.
Rivals: Houston WR Marquez Stevenson was one of several receivers who impressed at .@seniorbowl practices today
Watch the full WR/DB one-on-ones here: https://t.co/XkIxGI8jpd pic.twitter.com/sPaVoVbsWy
— Bill Porter (@BMack764) January 27, 2021
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.
This has been the story of Kadarius Toney’s day so far. Looks crazy bursty and athletic but has had issues catching the ball pic.twitter.com/OgBy9JfApg
— Garret Price (@DynastyPrice) January 27, 2021
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.
Tylan Wallace v Cam Bynum
Bynum having a rough day thus far in one v ones pic.twitter.com/NR2vmIxU6J
— Cyril Penn IV (@cyrilpenn4) January 26, 2021