3 reasons PFF's trashing of Patriots WR group will prove wrong

The Patriots wide receivers should far exceed expectations in 2024.
Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Pro Football Focus staffers (they require your subscription) are huge believers in themselves and their metrics. They should feel that way, of course, as so many people reference them (as I am doing now). But PFF is far from being perfect, and in the case of how they see the New England Patriots' 2024 wide receiver group, they will be proven completely wrong.

In a recent article ranking the best and worst position groups in the NFL, the Patriots were ranked worst for receivers. Oddly, part of the reason for the 2024 ranking was that the 2023 group was bad.

To be fair, part of the reason New England's receivers underachieved last season was that the overall offense struggled, and no matter who played quarterback, the quarterback performance was mostly bad.

However, the reason it's odd for PFF to rank New England's receivers so bad this year based on last is something they themselves point out in the article: "While the Patriots selected two receivers in the 2024 NFL Draft and signed K.J. Osborn in free agency, it’s a room that severely underachieved in 2023 and is relying on a second-round rookie for a boost."

New England Patriots wide receiver group is going to beat expectations in 2024

So, let's get this straight. The 2024 wide receiver room will be bad for New England because they were terrible in 2023, even though the team brought in three new receivers this offseason. That does not make much sense.

There are many reasons to expect New England's wideouts to be much improved in 2024.

Reason No. 1 - Ja'Lynn Polk is better than the disrespect he receives

The immediate reaction after NFL drafts is always a bit funny. Fans often argue, "We could have had this guy instead of the one we took!" But neither player has yet played a down in the NFL. Let's hold off judgment until the players are a few years into their careers.

Second-round pick Polk will be a terrific receiver for whoever starts the season at quarterback for the Patriots because Polk does not have to rely solely on pure speed. He is a smart receiver with extremely strong hands and the tenacity to catch the ball in coverage.

Still, his 4.52 40 should not imply he is slow as he did average 16.1 yards a reception in his final season at Washington.

Polk will be the kind of possession receiver - he only had four drops in 2023 - that any offense just learning to figure each other out needs. He might not lead rookie receivers in receiving yards, but he certainly can in receptions and touchdowns. Polk might not burn cornerback consistently, but he will be a key target for picking up first downs and helping score just enough points to win more games than many expect.

Reason No. 2 - Javon Baker is going to fight for everything he gets

Fourth-round choice Baker will mirror Polk in that neither is a burner, but both will not back down from a fight. The Patriots obviously decided to go after receivers who are stronger than speedy, and that is fine, especially for an offense that will be led by a young quarterback sooner rather than later. Expecting Drake Maye to take over at QB and throw deep a lot would be a mistake.

The Patriots' offensive line will be a work in progress, and New England needs to use a passing offense that starts short and then goes long, surprisingly. Picking up first downs, staying on the field, and winning low-scoring games should be the key in 2024, and Baker will help do that.

The other falsehood about New England's wide receiver group is that they are generally short. The Patriots have several receivers who are 6 feet tall but really strong. That toughness will allow for crossing patterns to be completed and chew up yards and the clock. Baker will excel in that aspect.

Reason No. 3 - JuJu Smith-Schuster should be extra motivated

We need to throw out Smith-Schuster's 2023 season. New England's offense was so atrocious, and Smith-Schuster was such a bad fit in the scheme that he was never going to succeed.

He might never be the receiver he was in 2018 when he had 111 catches and 1,426 yards for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but if he can get closer to 900 yards receiving, that is going to help the offense a lot. He is physically capable of that and reached that number as recently as 2022 with the Kansas City Chiefs.

What should motivate Smith-Schuster the most, though, is that he could be in the final year of his contract with New England. He is signed through 2025 but has no guaranteed money on his deal after 2024. New England could release him next offseason and save $7.5 million.

But the receiver is only 27 years old and should have a number of years left to play. One can assume he wants to get paid a lot to play, and one way to make sure that happens is to be very productive for the Patriots in 2024.

More Patriots coverage: