Patriots have made it clear what rookie receivers they're interested in

Dec 30, 2022; Jacksonville, FL, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Xavier Legette (17)
Dec 30, 2022; Jacksonville, FL, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Xavier Legette (17) / Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have an issue, and it looks like the Patriots have realized that their receiving corps is an issue. So you have to give them credit for that. But despite Jerrod Mayo saying he was “ready to burn some cash” they’ve only signed two receivers in free agency.

One of them, Jalen Reagor, played 11 games for the Patriots last season. And the other, K.J. "cash-burning" Osborn, caught a career-low 48 passes in 2023. He's not exactly screaming “number one receiver,” is he?

As for the cash-burning plan for free agency, both contracts cost $5,292,500, and the Patriots still have more than $51 million to spend! So, unless they have a devious plan to trade for a veteran superstar, the Krafts are just solidifying their reputation as the cheapest owners in the league. 

NBC Boston’s Darren Hartwell revealed that the Patriots have been in contact with some receivers heading for the 2024 draft. But while the team has recognized they need at least one more receiver, the list of people they have spoken with is another red flag.

They don’t seem to have identified what type of receiver they need. Two are 5 feet 11 inches tall, and the rest are well over 6 feet tall. And only three of the nine actually look like they will be true number-one receivers.

The list would make more sense if they intend to draft two receivers. But most of these guys will be drafted in the first two rounds. The reaction to the Patriots taking two receivers in the first two rounds is absolutely inconceivable.

Plus, that would leave the Patriots with 11 receivers (at least until they find out what is happening with Kayshon Boutte).  

Xavier Worthy 

Everyone knows who Worthy is, he’s the guy with the fastest 40-yard dash time in combine history. And while he looks like he would be a very exciting pass catcher in the NFL, not many coaches would take “exciting” over “reliable”. Most coaches in the NFL would see Worthy as a kick returner and the Patriots just re-signed their 2023 kick returner. So who knows what their plan for Worthy is? 

It’s also highly unlikely that he will be available when the Patriots pick in the second round as his performance at the combine has catapulted him into the first round. The consensus seems to be he won’t make it past Kansas City

Marvin Harrison Jr. 

This one is a no-brainer, as he’s the only true generational talent in the draft. Harrison Jr. could make Jacoby Brissett look like CJ Stroud if the Patriots took him with the third overall pick. But a recent mock draft had the Patriots trading their pick to the Vikings, and Harrison Jr. fell to the Jets after they traded for the Chargers’ fifth overall pick.

While that does seem crazy, you remember when the Panthers traded up to take a quarterback who wasn’t even the best in the draft, right? GMs check their sanity at the door on the way into the draft. 

Rome Odunze 

Odunze is one of three receivers in this class who will give defensive coordinators sleepless nights come September. At 6 feet 3 inches tall and 215 lbs, he’s about the same size as Michael Thomas (just two pounds heavier). Odunze ran his 40-yard dash 0.12 seconds faster than Thomas did at his combine.

Thomas had a pretty solid rookie year in the NFL. If you think 92 catches for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns is solid. Odunze obviously won’t have Drew Brees throwing the passes, but he still figures to be successful when he takes the step up. 

Odunze is projected to be the sixth overall pick in the draft though. And the prospect of him playing him in a Brian Daboll offense is very intriguing. But that doesn’t help the Patriots. 

Brian Thomas Jr. 

Thomas Jr. Was the second-fastest receiver at the combine. And he is the closest thing to Marvin Harrison Jr. in the class (mark my words). Thomas Jr. is exactly the same size as Harrison Jr. They're both 6 feet 4 inches tall and weigh 205 lbs.

So they’re both matchup nightmares. Harrison Jr. Might be slightly stronger, but Thomas Jr. is a former basketball player. The balance and body control needed in basketball makes for solid pass catchers. Think Antwaan Randle El and Vincent Jackson. 

Thomas Jr. Projects as the 18th overall pick, so for the Patriots it land him they would have to trade back with the Bengals. While that’s not impossible, it seems incredibly unlikely. 

Xavier Legette 

Gamecock Legette is an explosive athlete who will need some coaching to become an effective NFL receiver. He racked up an impressive 1,678 yards on 113 receptions across his career at South Carolina, and according to the Gamecocks website, he weighs in at 227 lbs. So he’s bigger than most NFL defensive backs. 

Legette isn’t projected to be drafted before the 36th pick, so he’s a very live prospect for the Patriots. 

Ladd McConkey 

McConkey ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine, and that’s fast. But he’s only 6 feet tall and 185 lbs. Just the 42 lbs. lighter than Legette (see what I mean about the Patriots having no clear plan?). McConkey struggled with an ankle injury in 2023 and only played in nine games, so that could be a concern. 

McConkey projects as a second round pick, with the consensus being that he’s destined to be a Patriot. 

Devontez Walker 

Walker averaged 17 yards per reception and caught nine touchdowns from Drake Maye last season. But that North Carolina schedule wasn’t exactly a murders row. He ran a 4.36 40-yard time at the combine, though, so he’s almost as fast as Thomas Jr. 

Walker’s draft projection sees him being taken in the third round, so it’s possible he will be in New England this summer. 

Luke McCaffrey 

There’s a bit of “guilty by association” about the hype surrounding McCaffrey. His older brother Christian is one of the biggest stars in the NFL.

But his dad is more famous for being Christian’s dad than he is for playing 13 years in the league. Luke’s oldest brother Max bounced around practice squads and only saw one target in his two years in the league (and he returned one punt for Jacksonville).

So, Christian seems to be more of an outlier than a trend. Luke didn’t even follow in Ed and Christian’s footsteps and attend Stanford; he started his college career as a quarterback at Nebraska and spent his final three years at Rice. 

Last season, he scored 13 touchdowns and averaged 12.9 yards per touch, so his draft projection has taken off. He was expected to go undrafted until January, and he’s now projected as a third-round pick, which is definitely within the Patriots' reach. 

Jalen Coker 

Coker is projected to go undrafted, which is understandable given that he’s 6 feet 1 inches tall and weighs 208 lbs. And he clocked a very ordinary 4.57-second 40-yard dash. But he attended Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. So he might know where the best coffee is in New England. 

Coker caught 15 touchdowns in FCS football last year and he may well be worth signing as a UDFA. But meeting someone who should be available after the draft, before the draft seems like a waste of a meeting. 

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