5 receivers the Patriots could have drafted instead of Ja'Lynn Polk

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Ja’Lynn Polk wasn’t expected to be selected before the 60th pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, with some analysts projecting him to fall to the Ravens at No. 62.

But the Patriots took him much earlier at No. 37 when there were plenty of other talented receivers available. 

Who did they pass on to take Polk?

Jalen McMillan 

Polk’s Washington teammate Jalen McMillan fell to the Buccaneers at the 92nd spot. That’s more than 20 places lower than expected. In the run-up to the draft, McMillan drew comparisons to Jakobi Meyers, the one who got that away for the Patriots, which meant McMillan would have been a good fit in Foxborough.

In a receiving corps that included Polk and the ninth overall pick Rome Odunze, McMillan shuffled around the formation in Washington, playing in the slot 91.4% of the time. But he’s versatile enough to line up anywhere.

Washington even used him as a wild-cat quarterback (although it seems unlikely the Patriots’ offense will use him in the wild-cat any time soon). 

Since Polk transferred to the Pacific Northwest from Texas Tech, he and McMillan put up similar numbers. During his three seasons, Polk caught 115 receptions for 1,967 yards and 16 touchdown catches. McMillan had 164 catches for 2,143 yards and 17 touchdowns and scored a rushing touchdown in 2023, too.  

McMillan clocked a 4.47 40-yard time at the combine, 0.05 seconds faster than Polk. That might not be substantially slower, but it is the difference between being in the 62nd percentile and the 44th percentile in this talented receiver class.  

His highlight reels show how he can separate from defenders using speed and route running. The former baseball player has dynamic footwork combined with an ability to run past defensive backs that almost freezes them, allowing him to get a two—or three-step head start.

The Fresno native is strong enough to run through arm tackles and shifty enough to prevent defenders from easily wrapping him up. McMillan might have to split time with second-year receiver Trey Palmer in Tampa, but when he’s on the field, he will be tough to defend.