The New England Patriots reportedly hosted a star-studded group of 2019 NFL Draft prospects Thursday.
Along with Iowa’s Noah Fant — widely considered the second-best tight end in this year’s class — wide receivers A.J. Brown of Ole Miss and Deebo Samuel of South Carolina also visited Gillette Stadium, according to a report from NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero.
Brown’s plan to visit New England initially was reported last week, so check out this story for more on the big-bodied slot receiver.
Samuel, another slot option, is slightly smaller (5-foot-11, 214 pounds to Brown’s 6-foot, 226) but is known for his ferocity and physicality, with his NFL.com draft profile noting he “plays each game like he’s stepping into an alley fight.”
As a senior last season, Samuel earned second-team All-SEC honors as a receiver (62 catches, 882 yards, 11 touchdowns) and first-team recognition as a return man (23 punt returns, 570 yards, one touchdown). His four career punt-return touchdowns are the most ever by a South Carolina player, and he also scored seven rushing touchdowns, six of which came in his sophomore year in 2016.
Samuel wasn’t a top performer at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, but he posted strong marks in the short shuttle (4.14 seconds; sixth-best among receivers) and vertical jump (39 inches; sixth-best).
The Patriots, who currently have little depth at wideout behind Julian Edelman, have shown great interest in slot receivers this offseason. They made unsuccessful bids for Adam Humphries and Cole Beasley in free agency and have been linked to prospects like Brown, Samuel and UMass’ Andy Isabella during the pre-draft process.
It would be surprising if either Brown or Samuel still were on the board by the end of the second round. Both could be options for the Patriots either at pick No. 32 or early on Day 2.