One of the more highly-discussed draft picks the Patriots chose this year was wide receiver Kayshon Boutte out of LSU, a once-projected first-rounder that New England snagged in the sixth round.
Although it seemed obvious Bill Belichick would take a higher-ranked receiver, given the lack of substantial talent on the roster, he chose to wait until selecting Boutte to fill that void.
The pick was initially well received since he had previously been considered one of the best of the 2023 class, but a forgettable performance through spring practices brought up questions regarding his potential and future on the team if he makes the final roster.
Now with training camp just a few weeks away, we will finally have the opportunity to see what Boutte could bring to the offense and his chances of making the team.
Despite the question marks regarding his Patriots' outlook, there are several things to consider when deciding his fit on the team.
- 2020: 45 receptions for 735 yards and 5 touchdowns - 16.3 average YPC in 10 games
- 2021: 38 receptions for 509 yards and 9 touchdowns - 13.4 average YPC in 6 games
- 2022: 48 receptions for 538 yards and 2 touchdowns - 11.2 average YPC in 11 games
The former 4-star recruit from Louisiana made a name for himself during his three years at LSU, and his performance throughout made him a once-projected first round draft pick. The most prominent reason for that was his versatility.
Because of his size, most would assume he would be any team's slot receiver, but he also has experience lining up on the outside. This provides more flexibility for Mac Jones and the offense, primarily as they work to create a new and well-oiled offensive scheme under the returning Bill O'Brien this upcoming season.
Boutte can also speed past defenders not only because of his quickness but also because of his excellent vision of the field ahead of him. His natural athleticism and acceleration are critical components of his game which will undoubtedly be utilized on the field with the Patriots.
The most significant issue about Boutte's game is his inconsistency.
He started his time with LSU impressing early on, having a noteworthy performance during his rookie campaign. The following season, he was able to build upon what he had accomplished already but ended the year with an ankle injury that required multiple surgeries to repair.
Then came the 2022 season, which is mainly why his draft stock plummeted, making it easy for teams to look elsewhere for offensive help.
Some tension was alleged between Boutte and his new head coach and offensive coordinator, which led to confusion regarding the receiver's future. Rumors began to swirl that he was considering transferring because of the issues, but he remained with LSU throughout the season.
Although he was able to accomplish more receptions in his final year, his alleged "off-the-field issues" didn't sit well with many in the NFL. He then didn't perform well at the combine, where he needed to impress teams to increase his chances of going higher in the draft, but that didn't happen, thus the reason he fell to the Patriots in the sixth round. Not to mention his up-and-down production over the three years in Louisiana.
Along with the question marks regarding his consistency, Boutte totaled seven drops by the end of the 2022 season. That's certainly not an attribute teams want to see when evaluating who to draft.
There is a lot of potential in Boutte if he can hone in on it and exploit it as he did during the 2021 season; it's difficult to argue against him making the final 53-man roster.
As it stands right now, though, he's projected to likely make the practice squad. Even though the current receiving corps does not receive a lot of praise, Boutte has to compete with Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Tyquan Thornton for a roster spot, among the others who have been on the practice squad for the last few seasons.
Training camp will play an integral part in determining where he will land for the 2023 season, and if he hopes to improve his chances of being signed to the game-day roster, he will need to really impress this summer, which he didn't do in the spring.
What he has working for him, however, is his potential. Boutte has already been deemed a potential steal for the Patriots in the draft, with even an NFL Films producer comparing him to the likes of Stefon Diggs.
If he can perform similarly or better to how he looked early in his college career, he could easily create a spot for himself on the team. But if he doesn't, he will likely fall into the typical Belichick machine of keeping rookies on the practice squad until further notice.