The New England Patriots' offseason has left much to be desired with massive holes at offensive tackle and running back yet to be remedied. One point of relative depth if not outright quality is at wide receiver. The Patriots moved early in free agency to sign a favorite here, JuJu Smith-Schuster lately of the Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Yet, major questions remain at the position. Most recently, the team was in on DeAndre Hopkins who ultimately signed with the Tennessee Titans. That notwithstanding, there is relative depth at the position. Let's take a look at how the wide receivers stack up in 2023 for the New England Patriots and assign a grade.
The New England Patriots top wide receiver
The New England Patriots allowed their best receiver in 2022, Jakobi Meyers to leave in free agency. For a team that has been notoriously average at the position of late, it was a questionable move.
Meyers caught 67 passes for 804 yards and six TDs in 2022. He left for Las Vegas. The Patriots signed the aforementioned Smith-Schuster to ostensibly take over the number-one wide receiver slot.
Smith-Schuster has a far higher ceiling than Meyers though injuries are an issue. He missed the mini-camps and says he'll be ready for the start of training camp. Here's what nbcsports.com noted about his situation,
"Smith-Schuster told Nicole Yang of the Boston Globe that he will be ready to hit the field with the rest of the team when training camp gets underway next week...
The Patriots hold their first training camp practice on July 26...
Smith-Schuster signed a three-year contract with the Patriots in March. He had 78 catches for 933 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season for the Chiefs and added 10 catches for 89 yards in the postseason."
Smith-Schuster's presence is key to the New England Patriots' wide receiver room this season. If healthy, he's their top positive at the position.
The New England Patriots have depth at wide receiver
In addition to Smith-Schuster, the New England Patriots can roll out DaVonte Parker, who recently signed a contract extension. Parker caught a meager 31 passes for 301 yards and three TDs in 2022.
They'll need more than that if the lethargic offense of 2022 is to improve. Staying healthy will also be a major question for the now 30-year-old Parker.
The New England Patriots also bring back Kendrick Bourne and last season's second-round pick, Tyquan Thornton. Neither did much in 2022. They'll be counted upon to produce this year especially if/when injuries strike.
Adding to the competition, the team drafted two wide receivers in the sixth round. They are Demario Douglas and Kayshon Boutte. Both are candidates for the practice squad. The good news is the team actually drafted a wide receiver at all.
The New England Patriots situation at wide receiver and the grade
With all this in mind, let's evaluate the situation. While losing Meyers the team added Smith-Schuster whose upside if healthy is far higher than Meyers. The operative words are, "if healthy".
Parker is a tall receiver who has to significantly better his 2022 stats if this offense is to be effective. Bourne and Thornton are presumably NFL-caliber receivers but neither showed much in 2022. The good news and the second positive at wide receiver is that there are at least several depth options to employ in 2022. The quality of those pieces in 2023 remains to be seen.
With all this in mind, the grade at wide receiver is C/C-. A healthy Smith-Schuster is key along with the hope that one or two of the other three top receivers will get things together this season. If not, or if major injuries strike, it could be another long playoff-free year.
Those are significant questions leading to the poor grade at wide receiver. What grade would you assign to the New England Patriots receiver room? We'd like to hear.