Patriots Wide Receivers were of the most scrutinized groups last season. Edelman is the only WR on the roster that has actually produced for the Patriots. This position group has a bunch of players in year one or two of the Patriots system, leaving a lot of upside but also unpredictability.
Edelman will have to play out 2020 knowing that two of his best friends left him to go hang out in Tampa Bay. In a season where the offense rarely got clicking in 2019, Edelman was the one constant. He finished the season with 100 receptions for 1,117 yards and 6 touchdowns. Edelman is showing no signs of slowing down despite being 33-years-old. Last year was actually his best statistical season. He is going to have to cross the 1,000 yard marker once again if the Patriots are going to have any success this season. Stidham will have a nice safety blanket in Julian Edelman, one of the best slot receivers of all time.
Sanu has gotten a bad wrap in New England, partially because we gave up a second-round pick for him. The Patriots needed him to produce last season, and unfortunately, he did not. Sanu was put in a tough position last season for two reasons. First, he was traded mid-season into an extremely intricate offense and became an immediate starter. Second, he played the majority of the season with a high ankle injury that required offseason surgery. A lot of people are calling him washed up at only 30-years-old without looking at the facts about last season.
Two seasons ago Sanu caught 66 passes for 838 yards and four touchdowns. If he can do that for the Patriots, the offense will be pretty good. Sanu will help take pressure off second-year receivers N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers. He will also be a veteran player that can help develop a receiving core which consists of almost all first or second year players.
Out of all the Patriots Wide Receivers, Harry might have the highest potential. At 6’2″ 228 lbs., Harry is a massive individual with the speed and agility of a slot receiver. A lot of Patriots fans have complained that he looked slow or lazy off the line of scrimmage his rookie year. In reality, he was just struggling against press coverage which many rookies do. I wrote about Harry a few days ago where I covered how Harry is working to improve his ability to beat press coverage:
N’Keal Harry has spent this offseason working with Rischad Whitfield, who is known as the “footwork king.” Whitfield works with some of the best receivers in football, including Odell Beckham Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins. Last season Harry struggled to get off the line, and Whitfield has been working with Harry to improve his ability to beat press coverage.Read More:
Meyers is a definite fan favorite among Patriots fans. Stidham and Meyers showed off their on-field chemistry in the preseason which ultimately resulted in a roster spot for the undrafted free agent. Meyers can play on the outside or in the slot and will have the opportunity to play both positions in New England.
Meyers’ production does not jump off the page — 26 receptions for 359 yards. However, that actually ranks 2nd among returning wideouts if you do not count Sanu’s yards with Atlanta. More importantly, he ranked 12th in yardage among rookies. He got a lot more work than a typical undrafted free agent in year one, putting him on pace for a productive career.
Lee is an interesting addition for the Patriots. He missed the majority of last season, and all of 2018 with a knee injury. However, in 2016 and 2017 Lee was a key component of the Jaguars’ offense. He had 851 yards in 2016 and then 702 in 2017 with three touchdowns in each season. If Lee still has something left in the tank, he could strengthen the depth of the position. If not, Belichick will cut him before the season and move on. Overall good move to take a shot on a guy who is only 28-years-old and two seasons removed from quality production.
Byrd is a 27-year-old depth piece that had a career year last season. He had 32 receptions for 359 yards and a touchdown. He has spent most of his career as a returner/low-end receiver and will have to fight off a group of undrafted free agents to fill the Phillip Dorsett II role.
One thing worth mentioning about Byrd is his almost unbelievable athletic tools. At Byrd’s 2015 Pro Day, he ran a 4.28 40-yard dash on grass. 40-yard dashes run on grass surfaces are historically .13 seconds slower than artificial turf. That would make him a historically fast player. If that isn’t enough, he also dominated the short shuttle (4.03 seconds), three cone drill (6.6 seconds) and had a faster 60-yard long shuttle (10.90 seconds) than anyone at the 2015 combine.
Gunner was another preseason standout that made the roster out of sheer work ethic. Olszewski played every snap like it was his last, and Belichick rewarded him with a roster spot. Gunner only had two receptions for 34 yards but was a regular in the punt return game. He may need another heroic preseason to make the roster once again as Belichick has added a lot of competition in the punt return and receiving game. He will have to battle a new crop of Patriots wide receivers, a lot of whom are undrafted free agents with the same chip on their shoulder he showcased last season.
Belichick tends to favor versatility, something Gunner absolutely showcased in the final preseason game. Overall, Olszewski had a statement game showing his ability as a receiver, returner, and even cornerback. One thing he brings to every position is a high motor that allows him to create plays no matter how fatigued he is. Worst case scenario: Gunner Olszewski ends up on the practice squad to start the season, but I think he makes the roster.Read More:
Practice Squad Receivers
Ross is entering his second year in the NFL after bouncing around a few practice squads in 2019. The Patriots added Ross to their practice squad on October 15th. Ross has yet to catch a pass in the NFL. He played college football for Colorado where he racked up 143 receptions for 1,643 yards and seven touchdowns in 45 career games. He is listed at 5’9″ 192 lbs.
Adeboyejo has spent the last three seasons trying to find a home after brief stints with the Raven and Jets before being signed to the Patriots practice squad on November 19th. He played college football at Ole Miss where he recorded 106 receptions for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns in 51 games. Quincy is a big receiver, listed at 6’3″ 200 lbs.
Undrafted Free Agents
Will Hastings – Auburn
Hastings has gotten a solid amount of publicity for a couple of reasons. At 5’10” 174 lbs., Hastings is the typical slot receiver, something Belichick likes to target. Second, Hastings played with Jarrett Stidham at Auburn. Hastings had a knee injury that caused him to miss Stidham’s last season at Auburn, but they did connect for 26 receptions, 525 yards and four touchdowns in 2017.
Here is a 47-yard touchdown from Stidham to Hastings with super dramatic music:
Jeff Thomas – Miami
Thomas is a very interesting player that I actually believe could challenge current Patriots wide receivers for a roster spot. He jumped on my radar in 2018 when Thomas shredded LSU for 5 receptions and 132 yards. Thomas has had some off the field issues, but his skill set is there. He is only 5’9″ but ran a 4.45 40-yard dash. He was explosive at Miami and could make the roster initially as a returner.
Sean Riley – Syracuse
Riley is a dangerous return man that could become a quality slot receiver if he starts watching Julian Edelman. Like Thomas, Riley will need to make an impression on special teams to give himself a chance at making the team. A lot of Patriots wide receivers have kick or punt return experience, but Riley might be the best on the roster. Last season Olszewski was able to make the roster largely because of his return ability.
Isaiah Zuber – Mississippi State
Zuber started at Kansas State before spending the 2019 season at Mississippi State. Isaiah Zuber is a tall, athletic receiver that does a great job at coming down with the ball in tight coverage. He uses body position and his wingspan to create separation. As far as pure receiver talent goes, Zuber is good enough to find a spot in the NFL.
That is every receiver on the roster. If you want to see the other positional breakdowns click the links below: