The 5 most important players on the New England Patriots for the 2023 season

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Tyquan Thornton

Most may believe JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the key players on the offense for the 2023 season, and in most aspects, they're not wrong. But the development of second-year wide receiver Tyquan Thornton is enough for him to be pushed ahead of the Patriots' newest receiver.

It was apparent from the beginning that Bill Belichick and Matt Groh were impressed with Thornton's game entering the draft. Although they made a questionable first-round draft choice with Cole Strange, they decided to trade up in the second to ensure they got the receiver they had their eyes on before anyone else could.

Some labeled the move a reach, but the potential Thornton possesses and has shown is enough to believe they made the right choice.

During his rookie season, we didn't see him take the field until week five against the Lions. Mac Jones had just gone down with an ankle injury, and fellow rookie Bailey Zappe was in for the foreseeable future.

Thornton wasn't super involved throughout the game but was able to get his feet wet enough to prepare him for a breakout performance the following week.

The week six game in Clevland is when we first saw what the receiver could bring to the table. He caught his first touchdown pass to open the second half, and after a muffed punt late in the fourth quarter, he ran his first rushing touchdown with a 19-yard carry into the end zone.

He was sporadically used for the rest of the season and scored another touchdown. But most of the offense for the remaining games went through either Jakobi Meyers or Rhamondre Stevenson, not leaving much for Thornton to get involved in.

Now entering his second NFL season, expectations are high but hopeful. With an experienced offensive coordinator back in the mix, Thornton should be better prepared and coached to have the season the offense will need from him.