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The New England Patriots may not need another receiver for 2022, but they certainly should begin thinking about adding one to contribute in 2023.
New England can take the time to draft and develop a receiver or two this year. DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers should comprise the top unit. New England could slow play a rookie, who might not need to take a starting role until 2023 when the team will have just Bourne and Parker on contract. So it’s a good year for the Patriots to potentially look for value all over the draft to support Mac Jones and the passing attack in the coming years.
I’ve based the availability of receivers on the Pro Football Focus mock draft simulator. Let’s dive in.
Round 1: Chris Olave, Ohio State
Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
He might be my favorite prospect for the Patriots in this draft class. It’s not clear if he will fall to New England at 21. In fact, it’s starting to feel likely there is a big run on receivers before the Patriots pick.
But if Olave falls to the Patriots, he’s a no-brainer to add to their offense. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound receiver finished the season with 65 catches for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns receptions. NFL.com’s Lance Zuerlein compares Olave to Terry McLaurin. Olave is a savvy route runner with tremendous speed and agility. He would be a WR1 in short time.
Round 2: John Metchie, Alabama
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Metchie might be the player that draft analysts project to the Patriots the most. He is likely to be available in the second round — though draft analysts are promising that he won’t make it out of Round 2, even with him recovering from an ACL injury that he suffered in the college football playoffs.
Nick Saban supposedly once said that Metchie is the epitome of what a receiver should be. That kind of praise is sure to draw Bill Belichick’s interest — especially if it’s for a player falling into the second round. Metchie finished 2021 with 96 catches for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns. He also had a great 2020 season with Jones at the helm of the Alabama offense (55 catches, 916 yards, six touchdowns).
Round 3: Alec Pierce, Cincinnati
Syndication: Tuscaloosa News
There’s one thing I really don’t like about Pierce: 2 catches, 17 yards against Alabama. If Bill Belichick is going to take a risk on a draft prospect, the coach likes to see that prospect play at his best in the biggest games. Pierce did the opposite. So that’s one part of his draft profile he’d have to overcome.
But there are clear ways that he’s a fit. First of all, his athletic measurements are absolutely in line with what the Patriots tend to seek, per PFF’s Doug Kyed. He has enough speed (4.41-second 40-yard dash) and size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) to stretch a defense, but is more likely to end up serving as a big-bodied possession receiver in New England’s offense. Pierce could watch and learn from Parker.
Round 4: Bo Melton, Rutgers
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
I don’t know what to make of Melton. Because of his insane athleticism, he is likely to go higher than folks expect. Round 4 might be a bit rich, but not totally crazy. He was a monster at the combine, where he posted one of the best 40-yard dashes, 3-cone drills, vertical leaps and broad jumps among receivers. He was simply one of the best athletes in attendance. But it’s common to see a great athlete prove to be a bad football player. Melton’s film at Rutgers is tricky because his quarterback … wasn’t good. To make things worse, I worry about Melton’s proclivity to trap the ball against his shoulder pads on every catch — rather than catching with his hands.
Even with all those bust risks, Melton is a high-upside prospect.
Round 5: Kyle Phillips, UCLA
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If the Patriots are looking for the Danny Amendola of this draft, then they’ve found him. Phillips is a slot-only option for New England to consider. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound receiver finished with 59 catches, 739 yards and 10 touchdowns for UCLA. His 3-cone drill was very impressive: 6.75 seconds. That makes up for a number of his other shortcomings.
New England could draft Phillips to return punts in 2022 and potentially replace Meyers in 2023, if necessary.
Round 6: Isaiah Weston, Northern Iowa
Here’s another player that checks a lot of boxes for New England. He’s big (6-foot-4 and 215 pounds) and fast (4.4-seconds 40-yard dash). In 2021, he had 37 catches for 883 and five touchdowns — and that wasn’t his best season. He was best in his first college season in 2019: 43 catches, 1,053 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Weston’s worst measurement is the one that’s most important to the Patriots: the 3-cone, where he underwhelmed at 7.27 seconds. In fact, a common refrain for most of the receivers in this draft is that their 3-cone is too slow for the Patriots. (Looking at Skyy Moore, in particular.) So let’s just give Weston a spin anyway for New England. He has plenty of upside.
Round 7: Slade Bolden, Alabama
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Let’s be clear: Bolden is not an impressive draft prospect. It’s harsh but true. He will likely go undrafted. But there’s a chance the Patriots will take him in Round 7 because Bolden checks off an absurd amount of boxes.
Bolden played the “Wes Welker role” in Bill O’Brien’s offense for Alabama. And O’Brien’s offense, of course, is very similar to that of the Patriots. In that offense, Bolden caught and threw for touchdowns. Bolden was a go-to target for Jones when they were together in 2020. And they even roomed together for a year in school. Bolden is a Nick Saban product. It’s just obvious that if Bolden was going to succeed anywhere, it will be New England.