It's pretty clear that receiver is a serious position of need for the New England Patriots. They lost both Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency and failed to sign any of the top wideout targets. They also lost Rob Gronkowski, making their receiver depth even more critical. With Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and the newly signed Demaryius Thomas as the only significant targets on the Patriots roster, the Patriots clearly have a need to address at the position.
The problem is that the Patriots do not have a great history of drafting receivers. Most of the team's most well-known targets over the past decade have not been home-grown talent. Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, and Brandon LaFell, among others, were all acquisitions from other teams. New England's only two successful receiver selections were Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell, and even those have their own asterisks. Edelman wasn't really drafted as a receiver, more as a football player, and Mitchell retired after just one successful season.
However, the Patriot's don't have much of a choice in the 2019 NFL draft. One way or another, they need to address their deficiencies at receiver. Here are some options that they may explore with their early picks:
- Marquise Brown, Oklahoma:
A pure burner, Brown is one of the most highly touted receiver prospects in this year's class. He had a phenomenal junior season in 2018, posting 75 catches for over 1300 yards and 10 touchdowns. Brown's speed and acceleration are what jumps off the screen when watching his tape. He is also fantastic after the catch, with an innate ability to cut in and around defenders. Brown's most concerning issue is his lack of size. He has an extremely small frame that could cause a myriad of issues. First, he will struggle to make contested catches. Second, he could deal with durability issues.
Brown's stock is unclear, as he could go as high as the mid-teens of round one, or as low as the middle of round two. His ability after the catch could entice the Patriots if he is still on the board at the end of round one.
- Parris Campbell, Ohio State:
One of the more interesting prospects, Campbell has one of the highest floors of any receiver in the 2019 draft class. He has an elite combination of size, strength, and athleticism that made him an impressive gadget weapon at Ohio State. His speed and agility are both good enough to warrant respect from opponents, while his strength and toughness make him great after the catch. He is also an impressive blocker in the slot, a trait that the Patriots prioritize. Campbell also adds value as a returner, which New England always appreciates.
Campbell needs to improve in the finer aspects of receiver play. His route running is just average after a more limited role in college. The Patriots would need to be sure of his upside as an athlete to take him in round one, but he could be a solid option if he falls to them towards the end of the second round.
- AJ Brown, Mississippi:
The Ole Miss wideout is one of my personal favorite prospects in the 2019 receiver class. Brown is a strong, tough slot receiver who excels at getting open. He actually had a more successful collegiate career than his more highly touted teammate, DK Metcalf. He finished 2018 with 85 catches for 1320 yards and six touchdowns. Brown is a great short-yardage receiver because of his route running and his ability to change directions quickly. He knows how to create space, and fights to make catches.
Brown's biggest issue is that his athletic ceiling is not particularly high. He will face stronger and faster defenders in the NFL. However, Julian Edelman has been dealing with that and still winning for years. Brown could be a great candidate to be Edelman's successor, with similar traits and competitiveness. The Patriots could select Brown with the last pick in the first round.
- Deebo Samuel, South Carolina:
A tough pass catcher who brings a certain swagger to a team, Samuel is a fun prospect from this draft class. He steps into every game willing to give his best effort and steps up in big moments. Samuel has great body control, and what he lacks in route running he makes up for in neck-breaking stops and cuts. He is fearless in the middle of the field and is tough to take down after the catch.
Samuel will struggle with beating man coverage against NFL competition. His physical abilities also do not stand out, which could make it harder for him to have success at the next level. However, his competitive nature and natural instincts could give the Patriots incentive to take a shot on the South Carolina prospect.
- N'Keal Harry, Arizona State:
One of the more underrated receiver prospects in the draft, Harry was highly productive during his time at a school not always known for its offensive prowess. He had at least 73 catches and over 1000 yards in each of the past two seasons. Harry is one of the best contested-catch makers in the draft, with an innate ability to body-up opponents and find the ball in the air. He is also a brilliant competitor who loves to battle opponents and get involved in the run game with tough blocking. Harry doesn't quite have the speed or acceleration to torch NFL cornerbacks and needs to improve his footwork. However, his ability to compete for the ball make him a good prospect to consider.
New England could use a competitive receiver who will go up and get the ball. Harry could be an option between the end of the first and the second round.