Quick, think of the five best wide receivers in the NFL today. Chances are you didn’t name any New England Patriots.
The Patriots admittedly don’t boast an “elite” receiver, unlike their Super Bowl LI opponents, Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons. But while New England still has some talent at the position — Julian Edelman finished fourth in the NFL this season with 98 receptions — Keyshawn Johnson apparently doesn’t think too highly of the unit.
In an appearance Thursday with Atlanta’s 92.9 “The Fan,” the former NFL receiver suggested the Patriots’ wideouts are nothing more than a product of their system.
“When you see guys that fail and play for other teams at the receiver position, they can go to New England and excel and everybody goes, ‘Oh my God, Oh my God, these receivers are top in the game,’” Johnson said, via WEEI.com. “Well, they couldn’t excel with other teams because of the system. If they were on other teams right now, they probably wouldn’t be on the 53-man roster.”
We see what Johnson is getting at. Guys like Wes Welker and Deion Branch put up some of the best numbers of their career playing with Tom Brady, and the likes of Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and rookie Malcolm Mitchell probably wouldn’t find the same success elsewhere. Still, to say they wouldn’t even make a roster spot seems like a stretch.
“It is the system and it is Tom Brady,” Johnson continued. “As long as they are precise and are doing everything they are supposed to do — which is the reason they are there for the Patriots, because they don’t make the mistakes — that is why they excel.
“You get a high-caliber wide receiver with the Patriots, typically they probably aren’t going to do what they are supposed to do. They are going to freelance a little bit because they have that luxury to do that because of their ability.”
To Johnson’s last point, there are examples on both sides: Randy Moss set NFL records with the Patriots, while Chad Johnson was a dud. But here’s something we all can agree on: Brady has a pretty remarkable ability to elevate the play of those around him.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images