Of all the signing the Patriots made in free agency, one stood out as a bit of a head-scratcher.
Ironically enough, NFL analytics expert Cynthia Frelund believes that player is primed to be New England’s most improved in the 2021 season.
Most were surprised to see the Patriots commit $16 million in guaranteed money to Nelson Agholor, who joined New England back in March on a two-year deal. Agholor is coming off the best season of his six-year career to date, but he’s largely been troubled by inconsistency since he was taken 20th overall in the 2015 draft.
Furthermore, Agholor is best suited as a deep threat, and most are expecting the Patriots to be more of a ground-and-pound team this season. But as Frelund pointed out in a column published to NFL.com, data suggests Agholor could be a high-impact player for New England in 2021.
“Retooling the offensive side of the ball was a major — and uncharacteristic — strategy taken by the Pats this offseason, which gives us some clues regarding what to expect from the team in 2021,” Frelund wrote. “Agholor, who joins Kendrick Bourne, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry among the Pats’ new pass catchers, adds a deep-ball element the team sorely lacked last season. Case in point: The 2020 Patriots averaged the second-closest distance to the line of scrimmage on non-red-zone plays at the time a pass was released, per computer vision. Agholor, meanwhile, averaged 15.3 air yards per target (fifth-most in the NFL) and hauled in six TD catches on deep targets (second-most) with the Raiders in 2020, per NGS. The seventh-year pro forecasts to play a major role in the New England’s revamped passing attack.”
Of course, Agholor’s productivity in 2021 largely will depend on who is under center for the Patriots. He potentially could form a dynamic connection with Mac Jones, who throws a pretty good deep ball.