New England Patriots

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 03: Chris Olave #WO21 of Ohio State runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 03, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
  • It’s a good year to be a team that needs to add a receiver – especially a burner. This year’s wide receiver class may be the fastest ever, based on the show they put on Thursday night at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Nine players ran a sub-4.4 40 yard dash, the most to hit that benchmark at the position in a single year in the history of the event.

    Even with what appeared to be eye-popping numbers dropping once the times became official, there’s still plenty to take away. So, who managed to stand out among a group of standouts? Here are the players that did the most to boost their draft stock Thursday night, focusing on potential Patriots targets.

    Note: Players did not participate in drills not listed.

  • Chris Olave, Ohio State

    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – MARCH 03: Chris Olave #WO21 of Ohio State runs a drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 03, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

    Measurables:

    40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds

    Vertical jump: 32″

    Broad jump: 10’3″

    Olave’s initial 40-time of 4.26u made it seem like he would ultimately end up well out of reach of the Patriots with the 21st overall pick. However, his official time was later reported as 4.39. That ranks ninth among all receivers in the class. While still impressive, it doesn’t quite catapult him into the top 15 automatically.

    In addition to his 40-time, Olave looked incredible natural catching passes from every quarterback in attendance. For those who didn’t follow him closely at Ohio State, it was a fantastic display of how smooth he moves running routes and in the open field, and how effortless he makes his job look at times.

  • Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky

    Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (WO28) goes through a drill during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Measurables:

    40-yard dash: 4.44 seconds

    Vertical jump: 34.5″

    Broad jump: 9’10”

    Robinson – who the Patriots met with earlier this week – is a converted running back who has drawn comparisons to 49ers star Deebo Samuel’s play style given his potential as a gadget player. The biggest gap in that comparison right now is size, especially after Thursday’s weigh in where Robinson measured in at 5-foot-8 and 178 pounds. However, he made up for that with his 4.44 40 times, which is about a tenth of a second faster than he was expected to run.

    If the Patriots do want to find someone to play a Deebo Samuel-like role, or even an Isaiah McKenzie comp, Robinson could be the guy. He still figures to be a second-round pick.

  • Skyy Moore, Western Michigan

    Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Western Michigan wide receiver Skyy Moore (WO19) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Measurables:

    40-yard dash: 4.41 seconds

    Vertical jump: 34.5″

    Broad jump: 10’5″

    3-cone drill: 7.13 seconds

    20-yard shuttle: 4.32 seconds

    No player did more for his draft stock Thursday than Moore. The Western Michigan product had the fifth-best 3-cone time, sixth-best 20-yard shuttle, and finished top-10 in the 40. On top of that, his hands measured the biggest of any receiver at the combine at 10 1/4 inches.

    Moore looks the part of a reliable, productive slot receiver on tape. One of the biggest questions about him during the pre-draft process was his athletic ability compared to Power Five receivers – a question he answered emphatically Thursday night. His performance likely pushed his stock up into the second round. With Jakobi Meyers a pending free agent, slot receivers could be a need for the Patriots in April, and Moore is starting to really separate himself in a strong slot receiver class.

  • Christian Watson, North Dakota State

    Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson (WO35) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Measurables:

    40-yard dash: 4.36 seconds

    Vertical jump: 38.8″

    Broad jump: 11’4″

    Watson’s combination of size and speed are the first thing to pop when watching him in a game, and he didn’t disappoint in the testing. At 6-foot-4, he showed out with a 4.36 40, the seventh-fastest of the day. He also paced the broad jump leaping 11 feet, four inches.

    Given his size, speed, and explosiveness, Watson has drawn a lot of attention as one of the top project prospects in this draft. One of the few true ‘X’ receivers on this list, he’d give the Patriots another option to Nelson Agholor, and could be a possible replacement with Agholor in a contract year. Watson is currently projected to be a Round 3 pick, but his stock is rising.

  • Calvin Austin III, Memphis

    Measurables:

    40-yard dash: 4.32 seconds

    Vertical jump: 39″

    Broad jump: 11’3″

    20-yard shuttle: 4.07 seconds

    Talk about physically dominating – Austin finished top three in every single athletic testing drill he participated in. After an impressive Senior Bowl, his stock continues to rise.

    Austin projects as a slot receiver with gadget potential who will win with athleticism over technique, and has drawn comparisons to Isaiah McKenzie. He also was an electric punt returner in college, which isn’t surprising given his skill set. The official measurements Thursday didn’t do him any favors (5-foot-8, 170 pounds), but given the on-field work it was an overall positive day for the projected early-Day 3 pick.

  • Bo Melton, Rutgers

    Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Rutgers wide receiver Bo Melton (WO17) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Measurables:

    40-yard dash: 4.34 seconds

    Vertical jump: 38″

    Broad jump: 10’1″

    3-cone drill: 6.98 seconds

    This is the second time Melton is appearing on one of our ‘standouts’ lists – he also drew plenty of attention for his performance Senior Bowl week.

    On a day where a number of the slot receivers in this class lost significant size to the official measurements, Melton was one of the few who came away with few questions checking in at 5-foot-11, 189 pounds. Hyped as one of the fastest players in this class, he ran the sixth-fastest 40 among receivers at 4.34, and his 6.98 3-cone ranked second in the group.

    Melton is another slot receiver with gadget potential and return experience, although he looks to be bigger than most players he’s competing with in that prototype, while bringing comparable athleticism. He’s a threat whenever, wherever, and however he gets the ball in his hands. Currently, he’s projected as a mid-Day 3 pick.

  • Tyquan Thornton, Baylor

    Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (WO32) runs the 40-yard dash during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Measurables:

    40-yard dash: 4.28 seconds

    Vertical jump: 36.5″

    Broad jump: 10’10”

    Thornton was one of our ‘players to watch‘ heading into the Combine this week. For a moment, it looked as though he had set a new Combine record with a 4.21u 40. While that time didn’t stand, his official 4.28 is still plenty impressive – he was the only receiver to run a sub-4.3 in this class. He also put up an strong showing in the broad jump, ranking sixth with a 10 foot, 10 inch leap.

    Heading into Thursday Thornton wasn’t on many mock drafts, and is currently projected as a late-Day 3 pick. That should change with his Combine performance. At 6-foot-2, 181 pounds there are some concerns about his physical makeup, but he’s clearly among the more talent receivers in the class, showed good growth during the 2021 season, and now has eye-catching testing numbers to add to his resume.

  • Jalen Nailor, Michigan State

    Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State wide receiver Jalen Nailor (WO20) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Measurables:

    40-yard dash: 4.5 seconds

    Vertical jump: 38″

    Broad jump: 10’8″

    3-cone drill: 7.03 seconds

    20-yard shuttle: 4.28 seconds

    Nailor hasn’t gotten a ton of attention during the pre-draft process so far, but that should change after Thursday. He had a solid night and in particular stood out in the Patriots’ favorite test – the 3-cone drill. Nailor ran through the drill in 7.03 seconds, the third fastest of any receiver in the class. He also looked very natural as a pass catcher working with the quarterbacks.

    A downfield threat that wins with crafty routes as much as raw speed, Nailor’s biggest red flag right now is durability. He played just 26 games over four seasons at Michigan State. Yet his size, play style, and general makeup are similar to a player the Patriots drafted last year in Tre Nixon. Nailor is currently projected to go undrafted, but that could change if he pairs his Combine performance with a successful Pro Day.

  • Bonus: TE/FB Connor Heyward, Michigan State

    Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State tight end Connor Heyward (TE09) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Measurables:

    40-yard dash: 4.72 seconds

    Vertical jump: 32.5″

    This list is mostly about wide receivers, given the other two positions to work out Thursday were quarterbacks and tight ends – two spots towards the bottom of the Patriots’ needs list. However, one player from those groups Patriots fans may want to know is Michigan state running back turned tight end Connor Heyward. Working out with the tight ends, Heyward ran the sixth-fastest 40 at the position (4.72 seconds) at 5-foot-11, 233 pounds.

    The brother of Steelers’ All-Pro defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, Connor projects to be an H-Back or pass catching fullback in the NFL. Noting Heyward’s tweener status, NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah remarked, “just give him to the Patriots, they’ll figure out exactly how to use him.”

    For the last few years, the Patriots have brought in a handful of more passing game-oriented fullbacks such as Danny Vitale and Dalton Keene, although none have stuck. With starting fullback Jakob Johnson a pending free agent, the opportunity to add a player of that mold is as open as it’s been in a while. If the Patriots want to go that route in the draft, there’s no better option than Heyward, who is currently a projected late-Day 3 pick.

  • What’s next?

    Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA;General view of the NFL Scouting Combine logo on the field during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    While Thursday was all about the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends, Friday the running backs and offensive linemen and running backs will take center stage for on-field workouts. It’s also the media-availability day for defensive linemen and linebackers, meaning we could find out about more Patriots pre-draft meetings.

    For players to watch at the workouts, click here.

    For a full list of known Patriots pre-draft meetings, click here.