Patriots Draft Trends: Smaller, More Athletic Receivers Preferred


February 19, 2016

The New England Patriots typically adhere to specific standards when drafting wide receivers. Given their lack of success drafting the position, they might want to stray from them in the future.

The Patriots have drafted 13 wide receivers since Bill Belichick was hired in 2000. They’ve drafted four receivers in the second round, two in the third round, one in the fourth round, two in the fifth round, four in the seventh round and none in the first or sixth rounds.

The Patriots have seen the most production out of Deion Branch, David Givens and Julian Edelman. Matthew Slater, a fifth-round pick, has become a core special-teamer but has just one career reception.

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— Jeremy Gallon stands out the most from this group, since he’s the shortest and doesn’t have stand-out agility for his size. He was cut during his rookie training camp and wasn’t added to the team’s practice squad.

— The Patriots have drafted just three players with 40-yard dash times over 4.5 seconds. They’ve drafted just four players with 3-cone times over 7 seconds and one player with a 10-yard dash over 1.59 seconds.

— The Patriots have selected eight receivers who stand shorter than 6 feet and five who are 6 feet or taller.

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— The Patriots appear to adhere to mostly the same standards whether a receiver is “big” or “small.” Big receivers typically play the “X” role in the Patriots’ offense, while smaller receivers play the “Z” or slot.

— Big Patriots receivers typically have higher vertical leaps, while the smaller receivers have higher broad jump numbers. The 40-yard dash, 3-cone and short shuttle times are nearly indistinguishable between the two styles of receivers.

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— Patriots-drafted receivers are, on average, nearly an inch and a half shorter than the average NFL receiver. They weight less than half a pound lighter, however. Patriots receivers’ arms actually are longer than the average receiver. Their hand size is slightly smaller.

— Patriots receivers are more athletic than the average NFL receiver in every single category. The differences are greatest in 40 time, 3-cone, short shuttle and broad jump.

— The Patriots typically draft athletes rather than polished receivers. It worked out with Edelman, who exhibited elite agility despite being a college quarterback, but not so much with Chad Jackson and Taylor Price.

— The Patriots might continue to stick with their pattern of drafting impressive athletes, but if they want to switch up the process, it might not be a bad idea to find a more polished yet less athletic player.

It’s worth noting Keshawn Martin, whom the Patriots acquired in a trade with a the Houston Texans early last season, fits the Patriots’ standards for a receiver in height, arm length, hand size, 40 time, 3-cone, short shuttle, vertical leap and broad jump.

Keshawn Martin
Height: 71.5 inches
Weight: 188 pounds
Arm length: 31.5 inches
Hand size: 9.25 inches
40-yard dash: 4.45 seconds
10-yard dash: 1.58 seconds
3-cone drill: 6.85 seconds
Short shuttle: 4.13 seconds
Bench press: 13 reps
Vertical jump: 39.5 inches
Broad jump: 122 inches

Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell fits the Patriots’ standards in height, weight, arm length, 10-yard dash, vertical leap and 3-cone but not hand size, 40 time, bench reps, broad jump and shot shuttle.

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu has been tied to the Patriots as a free agent because he’s a Rutgers product with versatility. He fits the Patriots’ standards in height, weight, arm length, hand size, 3-cone, bench press, vertical leap and broad jump but not 40 time, 10 time or short shuttle.

Mohamed Sanu
Height: 73.5 inches
Weight: 211 pounds
Arm length: 33.5 inches
Hand size: 10.125 inches
40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds
10-yard dash: 1.59 seconds
3-cone drill: 6.88 seconds
Short shuttle: 4.21 seconds
Bench press: 19 reps
Vertical jump: 36 inches
Broad jump: 126 inches

We’ll have a better sense of which receiver draft prospects the Patriots could show interest in selecting after next week’s NFL Scouting Combine. If history repeats itself, they’ll select a raw but athletic prospect. will go position by position to analyze the Patriots’ draft trends prior to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. Look through our cornerbackrunning back and linebacker trends.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman runs onto the field before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium.
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