It’s not wise to expect a steady stream of fastballs and changeups from the New England Patriots in the NFL draft. Bill Belichick has been known to throw in a couple curveballs and maybe even an eephus pitch.
So, while wide receiver doesn’t look like a need for the Patriots on the surface, it should come as no surprise if they elect to take one at any point in this month’s draft.
The Patriots value athleticism greatly at wide receiver. They like a sub-4.5-second 40-yard dash and a sub-7-second three-cone drill and seem to prefer a short shuttle under 4.15 seconds.
Knowing that, here are wide receivers that could fit the Patriots’ mold with each pick they have in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Round 3, 72nd Overall Pick: Zay Jones, East Carolina
Jones is one of the best athletes in the draft and hits the Patriots’ requisite speed and agility standards with a 4.45-second 40-yard dash, 6.79-second three-cone and 4.01-second short shuttle.
Jones dropped just six of 216 targets in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus’ Draft Edge. At 6-foot-2, 201 pounds, he could play outside or in the slot. With Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman on the wrong side of 30, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try to find another slot receiver.
Round 3, 96th Overall Pick: Chad Hansen, California
Hansen’s another great athlete. He ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash with a 6.74-second three-cone and 4.13-second short shuttle. He has massive 10 1/8-inch hands.
He dropped just four passes in 2016 and was a solid deep target, catching 16 of 35 passing attempts of over 20 yards.
Round 4, 131st Overall Pick: Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia
McKenzie spent 91.3 percent of his 2016 snaps in the slot, according to PFF. He’s undersized at 5-foot-8, 173 pounds but is speedy and quick with a 4.42-second 40, 6.64-second three-cone and 4.15-second short shuttle.
He also contributed out of the backfield as a runner and on punt and kick returns in college.
Round 5, 163rd Overall Pick: Ryan Switzer, UNC
Switzer helped raise quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s completion percentage considerably, catching 77 percent of passes thrown his way in 2016 with only four drops on 126 targets. He caught 77.8 percent of his passes out of the slot, according to PFF.
He’s only 5-foot-9, 181 pounds, but his testing numbers compare to Julian Edelman’s. He ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash with a 6.77-second three-cone and 4-second short shuttle.
Switzer also returned punts at UNC, taking back seven for touchdowns during his four-year career, including five as a freshman.
Round 5, 183rd Overall Pick: Robert Davis, Georgia State
Davis is another one of the best athletes in the draft. He ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash with a 41-inch vertical leap, 11-foot, 4-inch broad jump, 6.82-second three-cone and 4.28-second short shuttle at 6-foot-3, 219 pounds.
He also had sure hands, dropping just three passes in 2016.
Round 6, 200th Overall Pick: Jehu Chesson, Michigan
Chesson is a late-round “Z” or slot option. He’s 6-foot-3, 204 pounds and ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash with a 6.70-second three-cone and 4.09-second short shuttle.
He was underutilized at Michigan but rarely dropped passes and was a decent deep option.
Round 7, 239th Overall Pick: Quincy Adeboyejo, Mississippi
Adeboyejo is another big receiver with elite athleticism. He’s 6-foot-3, 197 pounds and ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash with a 6.73-second three-cone and 4.14-second short shuttle.
He’s more of a project and was less sure-handed than the rest of the receivers on this list.
UDFA: Michael Rector, Stanford
Rector, at 6-feet, 193 pounds with a 6.77-second three-cone and 4.42-second speed, could project as a slot receiver in the NFL.
He had just 104 catches for 1,681 yards with 15 touchdowns in four college seasons.
Potential First-Round Pick: John Ross, Washington
Sure, Ross plays a lot like Patriots recent addition Brandin Cooks. But do you know what’s better than one Brandin Cooks?
Two Brandin Cooks’.
Can you imagine trying to defend the Patriots with Cooks and Ross on opposite sides of the field? NFL free safeties might just retire on the spot.
Other fits include Michigan’s Amara Darboh, Syracuse’s Amba Etta-Tawo and South Florida’s Rodney Adams. Arkansas’s Drew Morgan and Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp are potential slot options.
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