New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 30: Javon Baker #1 of the UCF Knights catches a 65-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter against the Baylor Bears at FBC Mortgage Stadium on September 30, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

On Saturday afternoon, the Patriots used one of their two fourth-round picks on UCF wide receiver Javon Baker. Baker is the second wide receiver drafted by the Patriots in 2024, after they took Ja’Lynn Polk from Washington in the second round.

Baker spent his first two years at Alabama before transferring to UCF in 2022. In 27 games with the Knights he caught 108 passes for 1,935 yards and 12 touchdowns, including 52 catches in 2023 when he averaged 21.9 yards per catch.

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In New England Baker will likely take over at the ‘X’ receiver after the Patriots released DeVante Parker earlier this offseason. Baker has the size (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) and leaping ability needed in that role.

What should fans know about Baker’s game beyond that? Here’s what the draft experts were saying about him leading up to that pick…

  • Lance Zierlein,

    “Former Alabama signee with good size and skill level who finally saw his production spike once he transferred to UCF. Baker looks the part, and his tape will keep growing on you the longer it runs. His play was very natural and instinctive in 2023; he made quality plays on the ball in game after game. He uses speed changes and route leverage to create separation, and he’s at his best working the second and third levels from either inside or outside. The ball skills are NFL-caliber, but the hands will lose focus at times. Baker has the traits and skill level of an NFL receiver and should fight for an eventual shot as a WR3/4.”


  • Keith Sanchez, The Draft Network

    “Javon Baker is a former 5-star recruit who started his career at Alabama. Baker transferred to UCF for the 2022 season and immediately became an important piece of their passing offense. At UCF, Baker showed the ability to win at all three levels of the field using his nuanced route-running, natural instincts, and ability to consistently make contested catches…Overall, Baker should enter the NFL and have the skill set to be a reliable part of an offense and be able to make an impact on all three levels of the field.”


  • Dane Brugler, The Athletic

    “A two-year starter at UCF, Baker was used across the formation in head coach Gus Malzahn’s up-tempo spread attack (72.9 percent of his 2023 snaps came outside, 27.1 percent inside). After he struggled to see offensive snaps in his two seasons at Alabama, he transferred to UCF and led the team in receiving in 2023, ranking No. 2 in the FBS in yards per catch (21.9). Baker is a good-sized athlete with explosive flashes to create on YAC-designed plays (tunnels, swing screens, etc.) or win deep (his 21 catches of 20-plus yards in 2023 ranks fourth best in the draft class, behind Nabers, Odunze and Malik Washington). He can make some wild catches with his body control and length, but the drops and inconsistencies at the catch point can be maddening. Overall, Baker is a loose-striding athlete with ball-tracking skills, although his tape is full of inefficiencies and question marks that didn’t allow him to consistently showcase his talent. He projects as a developmental Z receiver with starting upside.”


  • Derrick Klassen, Bleacher report

    “Javon Baker is a downfield wide receiver with the ball-tracking ability and route-running skills to blossom into an NFL starter. Baker is a vertical receiver first and foremost, which sounds odd for someone who ran a modest 4.54-second 40-yard dash at the combine. While his acceleration is lackluster, Baker does hit a solid top speed once he gets there. He has enough juice to make defenses respect him deep outside the numbers.

    What Baker lacks in pure speed, he makes up for with ball tracking. Although he isn’t someone who stops and climbs the ladder, Baker finds the ball well on the move. He shows calm eyes and hands when catching outside his frame, and there are some delightful flashes on his film where he tracks the ball over his shoulder cleanly. There’s something to be unlocked with Baker as a route-runner as well. He’s a deliberate route-runner with enough quickness to keep defensive backs off balance. You regularly see Baker buy extra bits of space by threatening vertically before snapping routes off.

    With that said, Baker needs to improve when he’s pressed at the line or bothered later in routes. His hand-fighting is lackluster right now. He can be susceptible to DBs running him into the sideline and never letting him stride out. With the ball in his hands, Baker is effective. He shows some explosive ability and good balance to pair with a fairly natural pace as a runner. He is the type who can turn five yards into 10 consistently.

    Baker’s questionable physicality and lack of immediate burst may mean he’ll need time to hone the rest of his game before seeing the field a lot in the NFL. Still, he profiles well as a developmental player who can become a useful vertical threat on the outside.”


  • Ian Cummings, Pro Football Network

    “At around 6’1 3/8″ and 208 pounds, with good length, Baker is well-sized as an NFL receiver, and he’s one of the most reliable weapons in the draft when it comes to converting at the catch point. Baker has hyper-elite catching instincts — an amalgam of high-end body control, contortion ability, patience, reaction speed, timing, and hand-eye coordination. He also has the hand strength to haul in difficult passes amidst contact. After the catch, he’s tenacious, agile, and incredibly aware of his surroundings. Baker’s catch-point prowess will ensure that he always has a role as a rotational WR at the very least. He also has promising ability as a route runner. Baker can still strive for greater refinement with his stem work, but he’s an energetic release receiver with the spatial awareness to manipulate DBs in real time.

    Baker’s biggest drawback is his visibly non-elite explosiveness and long speed. Athletically, his burst doesn’t separate him from NFL athletes, and he often needs a runway to gain any functional separation. He can compensate with his ability in other categories, but his ceiling may be limited as a result.

    All this being said, Baker profiles as an exceptional rotational WR4 early on in his career, with the blocking utility to provide value on early downs and schemed targets for other receivers. With more development, he could become a quality movement Z receiver with a built-in appeal on money downs.”


  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].

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