Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne should be the Patriots’ top three receivers this season, pending any injuries. For a team that projects to be heavy on two WR sets, they’ll get the bulk of the usage. Gunner Olszewski is also a lock to make the roster as an All-Pro punt returner, and as he did last year will add depth as a pass catcher.
That likely leaves one spot remaining in the wide receiver room. There’s a number of players who will push for it, and each brings something different to the table. N’Keal Harry would likely be the favorite heading into camp, but his request of a trade takes him out of consideration, at least for now.
Isaiah Zuber is somebody in perfect position to capitalize on Harry’s potential departure. As we saw briefly last season when he was elevated from the practice squad, Zuber can maneuver in the open field, and opens the door for gadget plays on offense. On top of that, he brings kick return experience from college, and the team is looking to fill that role as well (more on that in a bit).
This spring, Zuber showed refined route running skills, and looked more polished overall as a receiver. If he can keep that up, and contribute on special teams, it will be hard for Bill Belichick to leave him off the roster.
Devin Ross is another player to watch. He was with the team in training camp last year and had a strong summer, but just missed the final roster. Perhaps this year, with preseason games to prove himself, he can get over the hump.
Kristian Wilkerson and rookie Tre Nixon could be factors here as well. Wilkerson popped as a rookie in Titans camp last year, and was added to the Patriots’ practice squad in September. Meanwhile, Nixon would provide the team with another field stretcher, and could be used to spell Agholor if/when needed.
Like at quarterback, there’s always the possibility that the Patriots simply don’t fill this role, and only keep four receivers. That’s not completely out of the question, especially given the depth at tight end. If Olszewski proves to be a more polished receiver in year three, the team may lean instead towards keeping a player like Dalton Keene on the roster over an extra receiver.