NFL writer believes rookie WR puts veteran's roster spot in jeopardy with the Patriots

Detroit Lions v New England Patriots
Detroit Lions v New England Patriots / Kathryn Riley/GettyImages

It's that time of year when speculation and hypothetical trades or roster cuts flood NFL news. But because it's a slower time of the offseason, it makes sense to make things more interesting for the fans and throw in a hot take or two.

And that's where we stand with the Patriots right now. Although their offseason has been filled with rumors and drama, much of it is just beginning, especially since draft season is over.

Regardless of your impression of how the Patriots handled the draft, with most feeling it was actually a successful one; some believe a few of the rookies may be putting veteran's positions with the team in jeopardy. That is commonplace no matter what professional sport you're talking about, but The Athletic's Chad Graff believes one rookie selection specifically endangers a veteran wide receiver.

The struggles of the 2022 season are common knowledge at this point, with a few notable players seemingly being the most affected by it all.

One of those players? Kendrick Bourne.

A more under-the-radar signing during the 2021 free-agency spending spree, Bourne spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers. But he could never make a substantial impact on the team playing behind Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, along with tight end George Kittle.

The move to New England reenergized his career, as the potential to be a WR1 was up for the taking. And boy, did he put on a show.

Although Jakobi Meyers inevitably became the guy for Mac Jones on game day, Bourne wasn't far behind. During the 2021 season, he totaled 55 receptions for 800 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 14.5 yards per catch. It was just 66 yards less than WR1 Meyers on the year, but Bourne was able to hit the end zone three more times.

Clearly, he was on his way to becoming a vital weapon within an incomplete Patriots' offense, and then the 2022 season happened.

Issues with Bourne began early in the offseason, as tensions within the team began to rise resulting from Matt Patricia's handling of the offense. Bourne was outspoken about his frustration with the coaching and direction offensively, leading to seemingly being punished and dog housed by Patricia for much of the season.

Despite his obvious talent and effectiveness on the field, Patricia rarely involved Bourne on game days, making a season-long storyline that made sense to virtually no one, primarily upon seeing the immediate impact Bourne had on the field when he was sparingly used.

With Patricia gone from New England completely and Bill O'Brien back to handling the offense, there's hope that Bourne can return to that 2021 production that screamed potential star. He finds himself in the same situation he did that year, but with Meyers gone now, leaving that WR1 spot available.

However, Graff believes he will need to re-prove himself and get back in the good graces of the Patriots' coaches. He also said the drafting of Demario Douglas might put his position with the team at risk, creating more obstacles for Bourne to establish his role on the team.

"I don’t think Bourne is guaranteed to make the team. He’ll need to re-prove he belongs to fend off Douglas."

Historically speaking, Douglas would have to be incredibly impressive to overshadow what Belichick has already seen from Bourne over the last two seasons, as he is not known for starting many rookies during his Patriots' tenure.

Bourne needing to prove himself as a valuable talent is accurate, especially after the down season he had last year. But there are many factors involved in how last season went, and it appears Belichick is at least aware that one person cannot be faulted for it all.

Because of all the changes to the team offensively, training camp will be far more interesting to watch unfold than it has in years past, including Bourne's performance throughout the summer. The offense's struggles were apparent early on and didn't appear to improve much as the weeks continued. With O'Brien and Adrian Klemm added to the staff, the hope is the offense will collectively look like a much better unit.

And that includes Bourne.

Besides the alleged setbacks due to Patricia's choices, Bourne didn't carry himself nor perform the same as he did the previous year. It's possible it was due to his circumstances rather than a talent disparity, but he will need to get back to his old form to maintain his roster spot, or younger guys are waiting to take it from him.