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Patriots 2024 Draft Big Board: Wide Receivers

Despite receiver being an area of need since Tom Brady’s final seasons in New England, the Patriots have either addressed the position insufficiently or ignored it altogether year after year. Luckily, the stars have finally seemed to align in the team’s favor.

Between a stacked draft class and de facto general Eliot Wolf acknowledging the need to weaponize on offense, all signs point to a significant infusion of talent at pass-catcher.

DeMario Douglas was a solid step in the right direction last season, but having an undersized 6th-round pick as the sole building block of your passing game is less than ideal.

The Patriots made a valiant effort to sign Calvin Ridley in free agency, but their uncertain quarterback situation proved to be problematic.

Former Viking K.J. Osborn looks like a solid depth addition, and retaining Kendrick Bourne felt like a must in an already shallow wide receiver room. However, the offense still lacks a true “X” receiver who can live on the boundary, exploit 1-on-1 matchups, and force defenses to think twice about living in man coverage.

With that in mind, I put together a big board of my favorite receiver prospects and where they will likely be taken in the draft. This list is based on a combination of skill set, scheme fit, and team interest.

With quarterback and left tackle being more glaring concerns than wide receiver, particularly within the top-15 picks, I left off early 1st-round locks like Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze.

“Key measurables” courtesy of Mockdraftable.

ROUND 1

Brian Thomas Jr., LSU

Background: 6’3″, 209 lbs, 21 years old, Junior

Accolades: Second-Team All-SEC (2023)

Key Measurements: 4.33s 40 (94th %tile), 79 5/8″ wingspan (89th %tile), 1.5s 10-yd split (88th %tile)

Strengths: Prototypical size and explosiveness, flexibility, releases, tracking, ball skills, YAC ability

Weaknesses: Play strength, limited route tree, balance in routes, contested catch ability, inconsistent blocker

Patriots Connections: Combine meeting

Quick Thoughts: Brian Thomas Jr. is a bit of a one-trick pony, but he has the tools to become a top-flight X receiver and can start immediately. His ability to win vertically will force defenses to shade coverage in his direction, opening things up for teammates. He’ll likely be gone by the late middle of the 1st round, but a run on offensive linemen could lead to a slip-and-trade-up situation.

ROUND 1/2

Adonai “AD” Mitchell, Texas

Background: 6’2″, 205 lbs, 21 years old, Junior

Accolades: Second-Team All-Big 12 (2023), National Champion (2022, 2021)

Key Measurements: 136″ broad (98th %tile), 4.34s 40 (94th %tile), 9″ hands (21st %tile)

Strengths: Explosiveness, length, flexibility, body control, catch radius

Weaknesses: Contested catch ability, YAC ability, route consistency, can struggle vs press, blocking effort

Patriots Connections: None reported

Quick Thoughts: AD Mitchell’s inconsistent effort and urgency could drop him to the 2nd round, but he’s a bona fide 1st-round talent who turned it on in the biggest moments. He’s the type of ISO winner the Patriots’ offense desperately needs, though he’s a work-in-progress against zone.

Xavier Worthy, Texas

Background: 5’11”, 165 lbs, 20 years old, Junior

Accolades: First-Team All-Big 12 (2023, 2021) Second-Team All-Big 12 (2022), Freshman All-American (2021)

Key Measurements: 4.21s 40 (99th %tile), 41″ vert (95th %tile), 165 lbs (1st %tile), 8 3/4″ hands (9th %tile)

Strengths: Speed, quickness, route running, ball skills, elusiveness, surprising contact balance

Weaknesses: Size, struggles vs press, inconsistent hands, contested catch ability, ball security

Patriots Connections: Pro Day meeting

Quick Thoughts: Worthy may seem redundant in a receiver room full of Z/slot types, but his lethal speed and ability to win deep or underneath will make him a focal point of defensive game plans. The Patriots need explosive playmakers that put fear in opposing coordinators, and Worthy fits the bill.

ROUND 2

Troy Franklin, Oregon

Background: 6’2″, 176 lbs, 21 years old, Junior

Accolades: Second-Team All-American (2023), First-Team All-Pac-12 (2023), Second-Team All-Pac-12 (2022)

Key Measurements: 39″ vert (85th %tile), 4.41s 40 (82nd %tile), 176 lbs (5th %tile), 8 3/4″ hands (9th %tile)

Strengths: Speed, height, length, route pacing, releases, body control, solid contact balance, breakaway speed

Weaknesses: Slight frame, flexibility, struggles vs press, inconsistent hands, contested catch ability, blocking

Patriots Connections: 30 visit

Quick Thoughts: Troy Franklin will remind many of Tyquan Thornton, and there are undeniable parallels between the lanky speedsters. Franklin’s lack of size might be an odd fit given what New England needs, but he’s a big-play threat downfield or with the ball in his hands and has extensive experience at X.

Keon Coleman, Florida State

Background: 6’3″, 213 lbs, 20 years old, Junior

Accolades: First-Team All-ACC (2023), Third-Team All-Big Ten (2022)

Key Measurements: 6’3 1/4″ tall (86th %tile), 127″ broad (83th %tile), 4.61s 40 (17th %tile)

Strengths: Size, body control, route running, ball skills, contested catch ability, blocking, return ability

Weaknesses: Modest speed, inconsistent vs press, can be choppy at the top of routes, nagging injuries

Patriots Connections: None reported

Quick Thoughts: Drafting Keon Coleman will require a plan, as his unique skill set doesn’t fit one particular box. While he lacks ideal speed and quickness, his rare size and excellent ball skills could make him a dominant presence in the right system.

Ricky Pearsall, Florida

Background: 6’1″, 189 lbs, 23 years old, Senior

Accolades: SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll (2023, 2022), Senior Bowl

Key Measurements: 42″ vertical (97th %tile), 6.64s 3-cone (93rd %tile), 73 3/8″ wingspan (17th %tile)

Strengths: Body control, quickness, toughness, nuanced route runner, tracking, ball skills, blocking effort

Weaknesses: Modest size, average speed, struggles vs press, just okay after the catch

Patriots Connections: None reported

Quick Thoughts: Ricky Pearsall may be a slot-only player in the NFL due to his lack of exceptional size and speed, but he’s one of the best separators and pass-catchers in this class and brings tone-setting toughness. If players with a bigger frame or more explosiveness in this range are off the board, Pearsall is a high-floor option who can contribute immediately.

Xavier Legette, South Carolina

Background: 6’1″, 221 lbs, 23 years old, Senior

Accolades: Second-Team All-SEC (2023), Senior Bowl

Key Measurements: 40″ vertical (91st %tile), 221 lbs (90th %tile), 9″ hands (21st %tile)

Strengths: Size, explosiveness, snappy in his breaks, strong hands, YAC ability, blocking, return ability

Weaknesses: Flexibility, change-of-direction, build-up speed, inexperienced route runner

Patriots Connections: Senior Bowl meeting, Combine meeting

Quick Thoughts: Xavier Legette’s lack of fluidity and late breakout will make some teams nervous, but he proved to be a dangerous three-level threat on a talent-deprived South Carolina offense last season.  Legette must continue to refine his game, but he’s an exceptional football player who can line up all over the formation and could grow into a solid WR1.

ROUND 3

Javon Baker, UCF

Background: 6’1″, 202 lbs, 22 years old, Senior Bowl

Accolades: First-Team All-Big 12 (2023)

Key Measurements: 78 1/4″ wingspan (71st %tile), 37″ vertical (69th %tile), 4.54s 40 (36th %tile)

Strengths: Explosiveness, body control, smooth and deceitful route runner, catch radius, YAC ability, blocking

Weaknesses: Inconsistent route runner, can struggle vs press, hot-and-cold ball skills

Patriots Connections: 30 visit

Quick Thoughts: Javon Baker has a lot of room to grow, but he has enticing physical tools, versatility, and route running chops. While he’s a tough projection who could go anywhere on day two, it’s tough to envision Baker not having a successful NFL career, given his traits and steady growth in college.

Ja’Lynn Polk, Washington

Background: 6’1″, 203 lbs, 21 years old, Sophomore

Accolades: Third-Team Freshman All-America (2022)

Key Measurements: 129″ broad (88th %tile), 9 3/4″ hands (76th %tile), 1.52s 10-yd split (76th %tile)

Strengths: Size and length, toughness, fast enough to stack corners, tracking, catch radius, ball skills, blocking

Weaknesses: Lacks explosiveness, limited route tree, can struggle vs press, inconsistent on contested catches

Patriots Connections: Worked with WRs coach Tyler Hughes in 2023

Quick Thoughts: Ja’Lynn Polk reminds me of Jakobi Meyers with slightly more juice and less nuanced route running. He’s got inside-out versatility and makes up for a lack of dynamic athleticism by being a big target with strong hands and exceptional toughness. Polk’s reliability gives him high-end WR2 upside.

ROUND 3/4

Brenden Rice, USC

Background: 6’2″, 208 lbs, 22 years old, Senior

Accolades: Second-Team All-Pac-12 (2023), Senior Bowl

Key Measurements: 33″ arms (79th %tile), 6’2 3/8″ tall (75th %tile), 119″ broad (35th %tile)

Strengths: Size, burst, build-up speed, route pacing, tracking, strong hands, scramble adjustments, draws flags

Weaknesses: Lacks great speed and quickness, one-trick pony vs press, just okay contested-catch production

Patriots Connections: Informal Combine meeting

Quick Thoughts: Brenden Rice has the size and athletic profile to be a solid X receiver for New England, and his Hall-of-Fame bloodlines don’t hurt. He’ll need to be more consistent to reach his ceiling as a very good WR2, but he can hold down the boundary receiver role from day one.

ROUND 4

Johnny Wilson, Florida State

Background: 6’6″, 231 lbs, 23 years old, Redshirt Junior

Accolades: Third-Team All-ACC (2023, Second-Team All-ACC (2022), Senior Bowl

Key Measurements: 6’6 3/8″ tall, 35 3/8″ arms, 84 1/2″ wingspan (all 99th %tile), 231 lbs (97th %tile)

Strengths: Rare size, deceptively quick, can quickly beat press, nuanced route runner, catch radius, tough tackle

Weaknesses: Doesn’t always play big, inconsistent vs press, inconsistent hands, can struggle to gear down

Patriots Connections: None reported

Quick Thoughts: Johnny Wilson plays like a receiver half his size, which can be good or bad depending on the rep. He has the size and length to dominate at the catch point or off the line of scrimmage but isn’t as consistent as you’d like in either area. That said, Wilson’s quickness and route running are much better than his height-weight combination would suggest, and he could develop into an excellent X receiver if the kinks in his game can be ironed out.

Ainias Smith, Texas A&M

Background: 5’9″, 190 lbs, 22 years old, Graduate Student

Accolades: First-Team All-SEC (2023), Senior Bowl

Key Measurements: 21 bench reps (92nd %tile), 29″ arms (1st %tile), 8 1/2″ hands (5th %tile)

Strengths: Explosiveness, change of direction, tracking, strong hands, YAC ability, return ability

Weaknesses: Size, limited route tree, catch radius, ball security, blocking, injury history

Patriots Connections: Pro Day meeting

Quick Thoughts: Ainias Smith may overlap with DeMario Douglas, but with Pop suffering multiple concussions last season, an insurance policy on day two might not be a bad idea. Smith’s dynamic athleticism can be utilized in multiple ways, and he might offer more downfield upside than he showed in college. With Myles Bryant gone, New England could also use additional depth at punt returner.

LATE DAY 3/PRIORITY FREE AGENT

Bub Means, Pitt

Background: 6’1″, 212 lbs, 23 years old, Redshirt Senior

Accolades: Shrine Bowl, All-ACC Honorable Mention (2023)

Key Measurements: 10 1/8″ hands (91st %tile), 39 1/2″ vertical (89th %tile), 79 3/8″ wingspan (86th %tile)

Strengths: Size, burst, build-up speed, excels vs press, catch radius, strong hands

Weaknesses: Raw and inconsistent route runner, elusiveness, blocking

Patriots Connections: Asst. WR coach and former Pitt WR coach Tiquan Underwood attended Pitt Pro Day

Quick Thoughts: Former Pitt coach Tiquan Underwood would have to continue honing the technical side of Bub Means’ game, but the receiver has exciting X-receiver tools and could prove to be an excellent day-three value.

Jalen Coker, Holy Cross

Background: 6’1″, 208 lbs, Senior

Accolades: Shrine Bowl, First-Team FCS All-American (2023)

Key Measurements: 42 1/2″ vertical (98th %tile), 9 7/8″ hands (82nd %tile), 4.57s 40 (29th %tile)

Strengths: Size, quickness, vertical explosiveness, flexibility, tracking, catch radius, strong hands, tough tackle

Weaknesses: Pedigree, fast enough to stack corners but isn’t a burner, inconsistent vs press, elusiveness

Patriots Connections: Shrine Bowl meeting, Local Pro Day invitation

Quick Thoughts: Jalen Coker’s game is similar to DeVante Parker’s, as both excel on 50-50 jump balls and slant routes. But unlike Parker, he doesn’t come with a lengthy injury history and has more upside as a separator and YAC threat. While Coker could immediately contribute as a Red Zone target and rotational player, he must prove he can hang with NFL competition to earn a larger role.

Tejhaun Palmer, UAB

Background: 6’2″, 210 lbs, Redshirt Senior

Accolades: Shrine Bowl, Third-Team All-AAC

Key Measurements: N/A

Strengths: Size, speed, body control, toughness, tough and slippery after the catch, blocking

Weaknesses: Pedigree, inconsistent hands, raw route runner

Patriots Connections: 30 visit

Quick Thoughts: To earn a spot on New England’s roster, Tejhaun Palmer must become a core special teamer, blocking specialist, and potential gadget player. That said, he has an intriguing physical profile and offers inside-out versatility, which could pave the way for a rotational role down the road.

Taylor Kyles

Taylor Kyles is the lead NFL Analyst for CLNS Media covering players, schemes, and tendencies through a New England Patriots-centric lens.

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