The future of the New England Patriots receiving core is currently on this year’s roster, as the team has quietly begun rebuilding their wideout group.
It’s quite obvious that the New England Patriots are preparing and fishing for their next receiving group of the future. In doing so, the Patriots have brought in nine undrafted free agent wide receivers over the last two seasons.
To address the lack of talent at the wide receiver position, the Patriots took N’Keal Harry in the first round of the NFL Draft last year. And to complement Julian Edelman even more, the Pats also traded for Mohamed Sanu last season, who is entering the final year of his contract.
In addition to drafting Harry and trading for Sanu, the Patriots then pulled the trigger on signing veteran wide receiver Marqise Lee this offseason, who adds immediate talent and depth to the team when healthy.
Considering that the offense has been designed around the slot receiver position for so long, the time has unfortunately come to start preparing for the successor to the team’s main workhorse, Julian Edelman, after 11 years of doing everything and anything possible for the Patriots.
To start the process, the Patriots decided to sign two undrafted free agent wide receivers last year in Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Although both young receivers impressed and progressed in their own ways, Meyers seems to be further along in those regards than Olszewski.
Here are the undrafted receivers the Patriots signed during the 2020 offseason
Throughout this entire offseason and the days after the draft, the Patriots brought in an additional seven more undrafted free agent wide receivers to evaluate and see who could possibly fit the mold of what they’re looking for in the position.
It’s worth mentioning that five out of the seven wide receivers are slot receivers, while the other two are over six-feet-tall and are capable of stretching the field on a deep route — as well as being a great No. 2 to Harry being split out wide:
- Isaiah Zuber (6’1)
- Jeff Thomas (5’10)
- Will Hastings (5’10)
- Damiere Byrd (5’10)
- Quincy Adeboyejo (6’3)
- Sean Riley (5’8)
- Devin Ross (5’9)
After a disappointing 2019 season in terms of offensive production caused by a lack of talent and weaponry, Bill Belichick has acknowledged the issue and is out to rectify the situation for 2020 and beyond.
Based on the history of the team and the direction in which the league is trending, these are the players who I believe have the best chance to make the final 53 man roster and accompany Harry in the very near future: Zuber, Thomas, and Hastings.
With that being said, I believe Belichick and the Patriots will be comfortable with a future receiving group including Harry, Zuber, Meyers, Olszewski, and Thomas, while also having a couple complementary pieces on the side like Hastings and Lee (barring his return from injury) to plug in and make some plays.
Unless the Patriots are considering altering their fundamental offense due to Tom Brady not being there anymore, the slot receiver position is what makes everything work — and it’s now more important than ever to start prepping for Edelman’s successor. I believe that receiver is currently on the roster in Olszewski and Thomas.
If we sit and think about all of the success of the Patriots offense, it was most productive when there was a sure No. 1 wideout to accompany the main workhorse of the team from the slot receiver position along with a tight end.
But considering the way the league has transformed in recent years, it is more common to see the 11 personnel formation that features three receivers and a tight end — which New England loves to run and is frankly built for.
I truly believe that the duo of Harry and Zuber split out as the deep options with Olszewski or Thomas as the slot receiver — and along with a versatile tight end in Devin Asiasi — is going to work exceptionally well for the future of the New England Patriots.
New England was also very recently successful in using two slot receivers in Edelman and Danny Amendola, and we could potentially see something similar between Olszewski, Thomas, and even Meyers in that regard.
All in all, it may seem surprising at the moment, but the receiving group for the New England Patriots is actually in a great position moving forward.