Selecting wide receivers early in the draft largely has been an unsuccessful practice for the Patriots over the course of the Bill Belichick era.
Nonetheless, NFL draft analyst Todd McShay currently is forecasting New England to target the position with its first pick April 28.
McShay on Tuesday released his first 2022 first-round mock draft, which has Belichick and Co. taking Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks at No. 31.
“Burks to the Patriots would make it six receivers in the first round,” McShay wrote for ESPN.com. “According to ESPN Stats & Information, we’ve seen back-to-back drafts with at least five first-round WRs four times (2000-01, 2004-05, 2014-15, 2020-21), but we’ve never had three straight occasions. While this class doesn’t match 2021’s group in elite talent, it certainly has depth.
“New England signed Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne in free agency this year, but it’s hard to find a true No. 1 receiver on this roster. To help quarterback Mac Jones continue the impressive start to his career, the Pats should give him a big target outside who can come down with anything. That’s Burks, who is 6-foot-3 and can adjust to off-target throws and pluck them out of the air. He isn’t a burner, but he is a savvy route runner with 11 touchdown catches this season.”
New England probably could benefit from a vertical threat, but the Patriots might be in need of WR depth, in general, next spring. Jakobi Meyers is heading for free agency this offseason and we probably shouldn’t bank on N’Keal Harry returning to Foxboro in 2022.
Pro Football Focus also had the Patriots targeting a receiver in its latest mock draft, selecting wideout Chris Olave out of Ohio State.
If not wide receiver, cornerback also would be a sensible play for the Patriots in Round 1 next spring. New England already is thin at the position, and retaining J.C. Jackson won’t be an inexpensive move.