One of the perceived weaknesses of this iteration of The Patriots is the wide receiver depth chart. This is a position that has changed some over the course of the 2022 off-season, and most likely will continue to change because only Kendrick Bourne and Tyquan Thornton are under contract through the 2024 season.
So either they start resigning some of the people still on the team or make some more moves in the future, but for now, let’s just focus on this year’s depth chart.
For the purposes of this article I’m assuming N’Keal Harry won’t be on the roster week one and Kristian Wilkerson will struggle for offensive snaps.
One of the only splashy moves the Patriots made all off-season was bringing in DeVante Parker, who has the true skills to be an outside wideout. He is big, strong, and fast with a large catch radius. If he is healthy he can be an impact playmaker for Mac Jones.
With the investment of a third-round pick and guaranteed money on his contract, he is a strong candidate for starting time. It would have to take a massive misunderstanding in the playbook or injury for him to not be impactful, as he is exactly what this team needs.
He is a veteran presence who has a great catch radius and tries to extend to the ball and bring it in. This can help Mac Jones because he doesn’t have to be pinpointed on every throw to Parker, he can go up and make a play.
Parker will project as the starting outside receiver, he will draw the opposing team’s best corner and take some of the pressure off of the rest of the offense. He isn’t the flashy move but he will serve as an immediate impact player.
Kendrick Bourne is one of the most slept on receivers in the NFL, showing a bunch of promise when he was a member of the 49ers. However, he really got a chance to shine after he signed with New England in the 2021 off-season.
It took a few weeks for him to catch on but once he did he became a consistent piece of the passing game. having a career year with 55 catches 800 yards and five touchdowns. Bourne was able to show his explosive ability numerous times such as; in weeks six, seven, ten, twelve, and seventeen he had long catches of over 40 yards.
I think he was hampered by the style of offense that New England operated in, the run-based system. I do think he had to work his way up the depth chart during last season. Once he did though Mac Jones and Bourne certainly developed chemistry, ranking in the top three of PFF’s top 20 best QB-WR connections, as you can see they created quite the pair.
Now coming into the year with a full OTA and camp with Mac Jones operating as the starter I think Bourne could potentially blow up. I predict him to alternate with Jakobi Meyers inside and outside of the formation, He could turn into the next great Patriots chain mover.
Perhaps the most consistent of the whole receiving core last year Jakobi Meyers is another player that rarely gets the credit they deserve. Although he wasn’t a regular in the endzone Meyers is an undeniable asset in between the 20s.
The team has asked a lot of him over the past two seasons and he has answered to the best of his ability. However, Meyers isn’t a top option in the NFL so it wasn’t enough. What he can be is a great third option on an offense, with the increase in snaps for Bourne and the additions of Parker and Thornton, Meyers can be the perfect mismatch to exploit.
This team is all of a sudden deep and versatile on offense, they don’t have one guy to go beat the defense but now they have a handful of players that can complement each other very well. Meyers will be the third guy in line and substitute with others depending on the play needs.
This is the part of the depth chart where things really start to get interesting, this training camp is going to be huge for Nelson if he wants to keep his role on this offense, and quite frankly the team in general. With the large contract he signed for the 2021 season, there was a bundle of expectations put on him to be the team’s number one receiver.
He didn’t really deliver on the hype, finishing the year with 37 catches for 478 yards and three touchdowns. It was a disappointment in most definitions of the term, even so, he was still a major improvement from the pass-catchers the team previously had. This isn’t enough to justify the contract he was given.
The Patriots will give him a chance to keep his spot at the beginning of the season unless he gets dominated in camp. He definitely will have a shorter leash because of the improved depth chart, this will also help fuel his competitive drive now that there is maximum job security.
I expect him to be a rotational piece in the offense for the remained of his contract and then the team to move on from him, they probably would do it now if it wouldn’t cost them so much money.
I have grown to be really happy with Tyquan Thornton, who was the 50th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. As we talked about above the receiving room is actually rather deep but needed to add two things, a big-bodied outside receiver and some actual speed.
They addressed both of these areas during the off-season by trading for DeVante Parker and of course now drafting Tyquan Thornton. This player is an absolute burner, he can release off the line despite what some people say and most of all he gets separation easily.
I think that Thornton is going to be the mix from the beginning really competing with Meyers and Agholor for that third spot on the field. His speed will get him some designed deep shots and plays to get the ball in his hands behind the line of scrimmage.
For an in-depth look at Tyquan check out his Draft Pick Profile
Not only did New England trade for a receiver and draft a receiver with a top 50 pick, but they also invested in the UDFA market as well. D’Eriq King played QB at the University of Miami but also spent some time being utilized as a ball handler.
New England has a history of taking undersized QB converts and turning them into established slot receivers for the team. King is a very athletic player and is willing to be used in any way just to get on the field. In most aspects this is a perfect match, King can develop into a slot receiver with a stacked depth chart in front of him.
He can also be a practice squad QB to show the defense a much different look when it comes to facing mobile quarterbacks
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