In a year that featured one of the deepest and highest-rated wideout draft classes in NFL history, the New England Patriots abstained from taking one.
The New England Patriots entered the offseason knowing they needed to upgrade their receiving group regardless of whoever became the next starting quarterback of the team.
In doing so, the Patriots signed veteran wide receiver Marqise Lee to a one-year deal on the morning of the NFL Draft after adding former Cardinals wideout Damiere Byrd in free agency.
The Patriots also had plenty of opportunities to upgrade their receiving group this year in the 2020 NFL Draft, seeing as there were only five wide receivers drafted before the Pats were on the clock with their first pick (23rd overall), and 13 in total before the start of the third round.
By the end of the draft, the only two offensive positional players the Patriots drafted were two tight ends back-to-back in the third round though.
Considering that Jarrett Stidham is next in line to be the starting quarterback for the Patriots this season, it makes even more sense to try and equip him with as much offensive weaponry and talent as possible … but they unfortunately just have not done that.
It leads me to believe that the Patriots are interested in developing the handful of young receivers they already have invested capital in.
The Patriots addressed the lack of talent at the position by drafting N’Keal Harry in the first round last year.
Unfortunately, Harry started the season on injured reserve, but he did show promising signs in the seven games he played in last season and even scored two touchdowns in the process. There are high expectations for Harry to be great in his second year with the team this season.
Jakobi Meyers, one of last year’s undrafted rookie wide receivers, got off to a hot start during the preseason in 2019 and started building an early on-field rapport with Stidham, where Meyers showed glimpses of being a potential deep threat target. The undrafted rookie played in 15 games last season and caught 26 passes, averaging 13.8 yards per reception for 359 receiving yards.
Meyers can put himself in the position to be in New England for a long time if he can put a firmer grip on the playbook.
Gunner Olszewski, the other undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver signing from last year, is still in position to take some of the dirty work away from Julian Edelman, despite fumbling the ball once on a punt return last season. Edelman, who is the workhorse of the Patriots, is also aging and closer to retirement than we all realize.
There will be a roster spot for Olszewski if he can start to learn the route tree and mirror Edelman’s game. Although Olszewski only had two receptions last season, he also had 20 punt returns for 179 yards.
Edelman (33), Mohamed Sanu (31), and Lee (28) are all aging, and they’re the only veteran receivers on the roster. Edelman is going to be the surefire No. 1 receiver and will intensively show Stidham how the route trees work — as well as show the other receivers how to run those exact routes.
It’s fair to say that Stidham saw and learned a lot last season and should be familiar with the way the Pats like the offense to be run. When you consider that he is young and heading into his second season with the team, perhaps the Patriots were interested in keeping him surrounded with the other young guys who he has already played with and is familiar with — all with the hopes of building a young core group for future years.
Using this logic, Stidham will eventually become one step ahead of his offensive group and can effectively be on the same page with the core group that he has a built-up rapport with in Harry, Meyers, and Olszewski.
Within the next two years, New England is going to have to bring in a young and talented wide receiver to complement Stidham and company. The Pats went defensive in this past year’s draft, as well as upgrading their tight end position, which still leaves the need for at least one more talented receiver to join the team.
But for now, and barring any unforeseen injuries, Stidham should have a decent receiving group for his first year as a starter. It’s worth mentioning that in addition to the New England Patriots drafting a pair of tight ends in Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi — which also improves and upgrades the offense — the team also signed Quincy Adeboyejo, who was undrafted in 2017 and ran a 4.4 second 40 yard dash.