New England Patriots

The Patriots have landed an established, dynamic outside receiver in DeVante Parker. And it sounds like that’s it for now.

Based on a recent report, the Patriots acquired Parker at the end of a longer process to decide how they wanted to add an established wideout. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Patriots “exhausted [their] options at receiver,” including “exploratory talks” with Odell Beckham Jr. They also “looked at” other free agents, but ultimately opted for the Parker trade.

That doesn’t mean the Patriots won’t add a wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft. But the addition of Parker, who’s under contract for each of the next two seasons, reduces the urgency to select one as high as the first round or as soon as this year.

Bill Belichick recently attended Alabama’s Pro Day, as he does every year. The Crimson Tide have two notable wide receivers expected to go high in the draft. Jameson Williams will almost certainly be a first-round pick, while John Metchie is expected to go on day 2.

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For now, Parker is presumably the new No. 1 receiver atop the depth chart in New England. He headlines a group that still includes Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, and N’Keal Harry. It’ll be interesting to see if Harry’s days are numbered as a Patriot, with the other four receivers likely to stick around on the 53-man roster.

If Parker can stay healthy, he would be a big, athletic perimeter receiver with the upside of a true No. 1 for second-year quarterback Mac Jones. The Patriots ostensibly have designs on Parker playing that role in 2022, and possibly 2023.

Belichick, Patriots get up-close look at Alabama Pro Day

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.


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Patriots draft preview: Wide receivers

  • We’re going on nearly half a decade now of wide receiver being one of if not the most talked about position for the Patriots in the NFL Draft. Some years, the position has been more of a need than others. How does it stack up this year?

    It’s hard to call receiver an ‘immediate’ need for the Patriots, given the way they projected other positions. They have NFL-caliber players across the top of the depth chart in Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Jakobi Meyers – the same can’t be said at positions like cornerback or guard.

    At the same time, an upgrade at the position could go a long way towards improving an offense that in its first year together ranked sixth in the NFL in points scored. Teams around the NFL have paired young quarterbacks with truly star receivers, with great success.

    The Patriots can also use this as a chance to plan ahead at the position, with Agholor and Meyers both set to be free agents after the 2022 season. They could bring in potential replacements for a relatively low investment on Day 3, and give those players a year to grow and develop in the system before asking them to take on a more significant role.

    Basically, everything is on the table when it comes to the receiver position in the draft for the Patriots, especially with such a deep class at the position (although it feels like we’ve said that about the last four drafts – at what point to they stop getting deep and start being average?). They could take a receiver in the first round, wait until late in the draft, double dip – any possibility feels realistic. So let’s break this class down by range of the draft, looking at the most logical targets for the Patriots in each.

  • Reaches

    Sep 4, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jameson Williams (1) reacts as he scores on a long touchdown pass against the Miami Hurricanes during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 4, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jameson Williams (1) reacts as he scores on a long touchdown pass against the Miami Hurricanes during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    There will likely be multiple receivers off the board by the time the Patriots are scheduled to pick at 21. If they want to grab one of these players, they’ll likely have to move up the board significantly.

    Garrett Wilson of Ohio State is currently the consensus top receiver in this class, and could go in the top 10. His game is well-rounded like most Buckeye receiver, but he projects to play mostly out of the slot in the pros.

    Alabama’s Jameson Williams would have been the top receiver and a probable top-five pick had he not torn his ACL in the National Championship game back in January. Williams is a top-tier route runner with elite speed making him a true threat at all three levels.

    The ‘size’ option in the top 20 is Drake London out of UCLA. London checks in at 6-foot-4, 219 pounds who wins with natural separation rather than technique and speed.

  • Round 1

    Oct 9, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Chris Olave (2)runs after catch during the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 9, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Chris Olave (2)runs after catch during the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

    If any of those three player prototypes interest you, but you don’t think the Patriots will or don’t want them to move up, there’s still good news. The next three receivers in the class each mirror those first three. These players should still be on the board around the 20th pick. It may take a minor move up to land one, but it’s not quite jumping into the top 15.

    Chris Olave from Ohio State is another well-rounded receiver, and is one of the best Patriots-specific fits at the position in the draft in a while. He’s a precise, efficient, and versatile route runner than can line up anywhere in the formation. The Patriots could put together some very creative alignments with him, Bourne, and Meyers.

    Jahan Dotson out of Penn State also moved around the formation quite a bit in college, but in the Patriots’ offense he’d likely primarily play in the slot. He’d offer them a more vertical option at that position, with big-play speed and route-running ability.

    Rounding out the first-round targets is Treylon Burks of Arkansas. Burks is a big (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) possession receiver who wins either on jump balls or by catching the ball around the line of scrimmage and creating yards after the catch.

    If that description sounds familiar, it’s similar to how N’Keal Harry was billed coming out of Arizona State. If the Patriots want a do-over on a player of that prototype, Burks would be the guy.

  • Round 2

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JANUARY 01: George Pickens #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs makes a catch for a first quarter touchdown against Bryan Cook #6 of of the Cincinnati Bearcats during Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 01, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham /Getty Images)

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA – JANUARY 01: George Pickens #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs makes a catch for a first quarter touchdown against Bryan Cook #6 of of the Cincinnati Bearcats during Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 01, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham /Getty Images)

    Given the depth of this class and the Patriots’ other needs, this may be the sweet spot for the Patriots to take a receiver. There should still be first-round-caliber talent on the board, both in terms of outside receivers and guys who can play the slot.

    At Georgia’s Pro Day last week, the Patriots got a close look at George Pickens. Pickens offers the combination of size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and speed teams look for in a deep threat, and adds strong hands to that equation. He’s expected to fall a bit in the draft after struggling to stay on the field the last two seasons, but the Patriots historically have viewed players like that as value picks.

    Another higher-risk, high-reward potential ‘X’ receiver expected to go in the second round is Christian Watson out of North Dakota State. Watson entered the pre-draft process as a likely mid-Day 3 pick, but has shot up boards with strong showings at both the Senior Bowl and Combine.

    At 6-foot-4, 208 pounds with a 4.36 40 time on the books, his measurables pop off the charts. His technical game is still raw, and he’ll have to adjust to NFL defenders coming from the FCS level. But in the right situation (sitting behind Nelson Agholor for a year?) his ceiling is tremendous.

    In the slot, Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore is the name to know here. Like Watson, he’s flown up draft boards over the last month. One of the most technically-savvy route runners in this class, Moore would be one of the least mold-breaking picks for the Patriots at the position.

    Finally, there’s Alabama’s John Metchie. Metchie likely would have been another first-round pick for the Tide, but he tore his ACL in the SEC Championship Game in December. He’s currently expected to go late in the second or early in the third round, but is probably trending more towards the former given the updates on his rehab process.

    Metchie can play in the slot or on the perimeter, and can burn defenses at all three levels. That was the case in 2020 when he played with Mac Jones and caught 55 passes for 916 yards and six touchdowns as the team’s second receiver next to DeVonta Smith.

  • Round 3

    Nov 6, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (1) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 6, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (1) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

    With so many risers on the board, some players have to fall. A couple of those receivers find themselves here, and could be seen as value picks.

    Had Clemson’s Justyn Ross been able to declare for the draft after his freshman year, he would have been a top-50 pick and a potential first-rounder. He put up 1,000 yards exactly in 2018, an averaged 21.7 yards per catch. Ross capped that season with a masterful performance in the National Championship, catching six passes for 153 yards and a score in the Tigers’ win over Alabama.

    However, Ross’ production has dropped since, and he missed the entire 2020 season after undergoing neck/spinal surgery. Still, at 6-foot-4 with impressive body control he has a lot of what teams look for in an outside receiver. That combined with his freshman year tape should have him still coming off the board in the top 100.

    Wan’Dale Robinson out of Kentucky hasn’t been bad in the pre-draft process, he’s just yet to have that eye-popping moment guys like Watson and Moore have put out there. In a copycat league like the NFL, Robinson – a converted running back – could play a role similar to that of Deebo Samuel in San Francisco. What he lacks in size he makes up for with speed, and could be a gadget chess piece kind of player on a team that excels in scheming up designed touches.

    While those two may be seen as ‘fallers,’ Memphis’ Calvin Austin is a riser in this group. The slot receiver finished top three in every athletic testing drill he participated in at the Combine, including a 4.32 second 40 and a pace-setting 4.07 second three-cone drill. At 5-foot-8, 170 pounds there are concerns about his size, but there’s no question he’s a problem in open space – whether it be as a route runner, running after the catch, or as a returner.

  • Early Day 3

    Nov 27, 2021; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights wide receiver Bo Melton (18) gains yards after the catch against the Maryland Terrapins during the first half at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 27, 2021; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights wide receiver Bo Melton (18) gains yards after the catch against the Maryland Terrapins during the first half at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Let’s start off Day 3 with more ‘X’ receiver options. The Patriots have had two pre-draft meetings with Nevada’s Romeo Doubs. Doubs was incredibly productive for the Wolfpack, putting together two all-conference seasons in 2020 and 2021. His speed and jump ball ability make him an intriguing developmental player who could likely contribute right away in the red zone and on designed touches.

    If the Patriots want to add raw speed, then they can’t do any better than Tyquan Thornton out of Baylor. Thornton was a projected UDFA until he ran a 4.28 second 40 – the fastest of any receiver at the combine – at 6-foot-2, 181 pounds. Add in his body control, and he had the makings of a sideline threat. He’s not going to offer much going over the middle, at least not immediately, but he can step in and keep a defense honest on the back end.

    The best fit for the Patriots early on Day 3 though is Rutgers slot receiver Bo Melton. Melton is another big riser between his performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine. With a 4.34 second 40 and 6.98 three-cone, he showed he can test defenses both horizontally and vertically. His initial release and short route package would be put to good use in the Patriots’ offense. He also has experience returning and covering kicks.

  • Late Day 3

    Nov 6, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Charleston Rambo (11) makes a catch for a touchdown against the defense of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive back Zamari Walton (7) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 6, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Charleston Rambo (11) makes a catch for a touchdown against the defense of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive back Zamari Walton (7) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Historically, this is the range of the draft where the Patriots target wide receivers. Of the 18 receivers drafted in the Bill Belichick era, nine were taken after the 150th pick, and seven after the 200th pick. Of course every year is different, but that’s the historical context. Plus, that’s not to say the only receiver the Patriots take has to come in this range – this could be them drafting a second player at the position after taking one earlier.

    Charleston Rambo spent three years at Oklahoma competing for playing time against multiple future first-round picks. He had his flashes, but didn’t produce consistently until transferring to Miami last season where he caught 79 passes for 1,172 yards and seven touchdowns. Rambo is a strong route runner with big-play ability after the catch, but a 4.57 second 40 at the Combine didn’t help his stock.

    A player in this range who did help himself at the Combine is Michigan State’s Jalen Nailor. Nailor is an outside receiver who wins deep with skilled route running rather than raw speed. The Patriots have brought in a handful of players in the past from that mold, including last year’s draft pick Tre Nixon.

    The name everybody will be watching for with the Patriots as the draft winds down though is Slade Bolden. The Alabama slot receiver is a four-down player who was roommates with Mac Jones at Tuscaloosa in 2020. He was a fringe draft pick before an underwhelming Combine performance, but his versatility will create a market so the Patriots could grab him before he becomes a UDFA.

  • UDFAs

    Dec 18, 2021; Inglewood, CA, USA; Utah State Aggies wide receiver Deven Thompkins (13) scores on a 62-yard touchdown reception against the Oregon State Beavers in the first half of the 2021 LA Bowl at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 18, 2021; Inglewood, CA, USA; Utah State Aggies wide receiver Deven Thompkins (13) scores on a 62-yard touchdown reception against the Oregon State Beavers in the first half of the 2021 LA Bowl at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots’ best homegrown receiver currently on the roster is a UDFA in Jakobi Meyers. Could the Patriots find success in that market again this year?

    Deven Thompkins was one of the best deep-ball threats in college football in 2021. The third-team All-American caught 102 passes for 1,704 yards and 10 touchdowns, and is one of the fastest players in this class. He was also one of the better kick returners, averaging 23 yards per return. So, why is he a projected UDFA? At 5-foot-8, 155 pounds, there are concerns about how long he’ll last in the NFL.

    As far as UDFA slot receivers go, Washington State’s Calvin Jackson Jr. is a name to know. Jackson had a breakout season in 2021 catching 66 passes for 987 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s a steady route runner and potential special teams contributor.

    But, if special teams are really the focus, then the guy is Britain Covey out of Utah. While Covey was a contributor on offense – he caught 52 passes for 514 yards last season – he made his mark in the return game. In 47 career games for the Utes, he averaged 11.9 yards per punt return and 25.4 yards per kick return with five total touchdowns. Covey would make a lot of sense as a replacement for Gunner Olszewski.

NEXT: Patriots get DeVante Parker in rare AFC East trade