From blockbuster trades to record contracts, the wide receiver position has been at the forefront of this NFL offseason. Now, the league prepares to welcome another seemingly generational class in this year’s NFL Draft.
With all of the movement and money spent this offseason, receivers are now as valuable as ever. Could that lead to teams being more aggressive in the draft to add impact playmakers on affordable contracts? New Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh believes so.
“Yeah, I think it was easy to say a certain point, maybe in free agency, ‘OK, well, it looks like a lot of these teams are just going to wait to get a player in the draft and get a much cheaper version.’ And then all of a sudden you saw some of these really big contracts, whether it was day two, day three, day four for these wide receivers and then trades for these wide receivers,” Groh noted during his pre-draft press conference on Friday. “Wherever teams can add an instant impact player, which is what these wide receivers are in the game today, they’re going to do it. You can’t just sit around and wait and hope to get one of these guys in the draft. You’ve got to be proactive about going to go get one of them.”
Is that an indication the Patriots are planning to be more aggressive at the receiver position than they’ve been in recent years. Despite the unprecedented level of talent coming out of college, the team has drafted just two receivers in the last three years – N’Keal Harry in the first round in 2019 and Tre Nixon in the seventh round in 2021.
Throughout the pre-draft process, the Patriots have been connected to a number of the top names in this year’s class. They’ve met with the majority of the players at the position expected to go in the top 50.
Even if they don’t land an All-Pro caliber receiver this offseason, Groh doesn’t expect the pipeline to cool off any time soon. “It just goes to the overall popularity of the sport,” Groh said when asked why the last few drafts have been so seemingly stocked at receiver. “There’s so many more seven-on-seven leagues, those those kids are playing that much earlier, refining their route-running, catching the ball better, all that kind of stuff. With the growth of the game and the popularity of the game – this is what kids want to do. They want to score touchdowns. Basketball’s always going to be a popular sport. Baseball, hockey. But where football is at, especially, in some of these hotbed areas of the country, that’s that’s the cool thing to do. We’ve got another great class of wide receivers this year, and I think it’s just going to keep coming.”
Of course, more receiver talent also means more tests on the defensive side of the ball. “Every year, there’s going to be more and more of these guys,” Groh added. “So, you got to be prepared to handle those guys conversely from the defensive side of the ball as well.”
Groh was reportedly instrumental in the Patriots’ standout 2021 draft class that added immediate impact players at key positions of need in Mac Jones, Christian Barmore, and Rhamondre Stevenson. Can he give Jones a boost and make a similar addition at wide receiver this year? Here’s a look at some of the top receivers in this year’s draft…
Patriots draft preview: Wide receivers
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