The New England Patriots have to address the perimeter in some way, shape, or form to assist Mac Jones moving into year two—they currently field a pass-catching corps headlined by in-line threats Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith with Jakobi Meyers set to enter free agency. An offense built around the run game with little flash through the air, a boost to the Patriots’ passing attack could see an improved flow to Josh McDaniels’ offense and a diversified attack on the shoulders of Jones, who’s proven he can dissect NFL defenses within the pocket. A quarterback whose claim to fame comes via his innate ability to deliver the football accurately and on time, an improved foundation of talent via the draft could see his game blossom to new levels; a must if New England looks to keep pace with the Buffalo Bills in future campaigns. What looks to be a deep draft with differentiating skill sets aplenty, whether Bill Belichick is in search of a true ‘X’, a versatile inside/out big-bodied target to dominate the MOF, or a smaller-statured threat to present an ultimate chess piece within his offense, the talent pool available in this year’s class presents an enticing menu to pull from. With that said, here are six wideouts Belichick could have his sights set on moving into the meat of the pre-draft circuit.Day 1
The NFL is a copycat league, and as we’ve seen Deebo Samuel wreak havoc on defenses across football the majority of the season, comparing his frame and skill set to that of the ‘Weapon X’ in Burks presents an awfully intriguing prospect late in Round 1. Whether he’s flexed out wide, aligned in the slot, or in the backfield—like Samuel—Burks was asked to do everything for the Razorback offense. Arguably the cream of the crop in this year’s class as a YAC threat, Burks is a load to bring down when the ball is in his hands at 220-plus pounds and is ultra-smooth as both a route-runner and when asked to snatch 50/50 balls out of the air. If used correctly within Josh McDaniels’ offense that allows Jones to get the ball out of his hands quickly, Burks could be the optimal addition.
Smooth as silk as a route-runner, Olave presents the ideal mold Belichick drools over in his wideouts. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Olave’s addition would immediately move him into a prominent role opposite Kendrick Bourne if the team allows Meyers to walk. A wideout who wins with his ability to separate working off the LOS, while he fails to tout the YAC ability of a Burks or Jameson Williams of the class, Olave has continued to refine his pro-ready game that should see him enjoy immediate success on Sundays.Day 2
A 6-foot-3 talent, Pierce boasts a long and athletic frame that will make waves during the pre-draft circuit. A supremely gifted athlete who is expected to open eyes in the 40-yard dash and other short-area explosion drills, Pierce earns his money primarily within the vertical third of the field, using his straight-line speed and length to pop the seal off the top of defenses. While he needs work within the intermediate areas of the offense that he will ultimately face on Sundays, he does tout the ability to elevate and extend to work through contact, which masks his limitations as a pass-catcher over the middle of the field. Whether he initially aligns on the perimeter or as a bigger option out of the slot, Pierce will garner a heavy workload in whichever offense he finds himself in. He could be a steal on day two.
A name flying under the radar due to the decal on his helmet, Bell is a pass-catcher that will thrive within all three levels of the defense at the next level. A unique talent that will have the ability to immediately come in and slot out at ‘X’, Bell has shown the knack to win on manufactured touches within the quick game on slants, screens, or crossers, while also touting the necessary vertical speed and ball skills to snatch passes out of the air 40 yards downfield. While his name doesn’t jump off the page like some of the other wideouts in the class, Bell has Belichick written all over him. Day 3
As much as Bell screams Belichick, flip on Philips’ tape and tell me he doesn’t scream New England. Molded similarly to Las Vegas’ standout slot man Hunter Renfrow, Phillips is a tough son of a gun who has the tools to become a featured pass-catcher within an NFL offense due to his separation skills, toughness, and sure-handedness when confined to a phone booth. An ultra-productive receiver within the Bruins’ offense for multiple seasons, his rapport with Jones could produce a fruitful connection for a decade-plus.
A big 6-foot-5 target who will soon draw national eyes down at the Senior Bowl, Watson is one of the more intriguing prospects in the entire class. A versatile prospect who also showed pop on KOR, if Watson dominates in isolation scenarios in Mobile against top-tier corners, his ceiling is as high as any prospect as a top-end height/weight/speed threat. Over the years, NDSU has developed into a premier talent pipeline for the NFL… Watson is next in line.