Next Pats Podcast

Why Ja'Lynn Polk's skill set makes him good fit for Drake Maye

"He just matches the future with Drake Maye under center so well."

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The New England Patriots badly needed an infusion of talent at wide receiver this offseason, and they addressed that weakness early in the 2024 NFL Draft by selecting Washington wide receiver Ja'Lynn Polk in the second round.

Polk was the No. 2 wideout in a high-powered Huskies offense last season. He tallied career highs of 69 receptions, 1,159 yards and nine touchdowns in 15 games for a Washington team that reached the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

NBC Sports analyst Connor Rogers recently joined the Next Pats Podcast with Phil Perry to discuss what Polk brings to the Patriots and how he fits with rookie quarterback Drake Maye.

🔊 Next Pats: Why Patriots fans will LOVE Ja'Lynn Polk | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"(Polk was) wide receiver No. 5 for me in a loaded class and somebody I knew about two weeks before the draft who New England was locked in on in the second round, because I think they saw his abilities kind of fitting what they want to do," Rogers said.

"Now with Polk, it's so funny how overlooked he became throughout this class because he's not the biggest guy in the world but adequate size. He's not a slot-only player. He's not the fastest guy in the world, but he's got plenty of speed. 

"But a lot of the things with Polk, in an era where we're constantly trying to quantify things and trying to include analytics in our process -- and there's plenty of good analytics on Polk, but a lot of the things with Polk that make him such a great prospect you can't quantify, and that's the determination and the will to go over the middle of the field and make plays that just a lot of guys won't do. They just don't have that in them.

"The DNA, the concentration, some of the catches he made, it's just pure talent, concentration of catching the football. It's one of the weird things I've seen in scouting over the last couple of years is the devaluing of finishing plays. And it blows my mind because if you can't finish plays consistently, you're never going to be a consistent NFL pass-catcher.

"And Polk is such a natural pass-catcher with great concentration, great body control. I think the route running has taken some big-time steps. He's coming out of an offense coached by Ryan Grubb, who's now the offensive coordinator in Seattle, where these receivers were asked to do a lot, and a lot was put on their plate, whether it was playing inside and outside, working vertical concepts, working over the middle of the field, setting them up for run-after-catch opportunities."

Pass-catching isn't Polk's only exciting talent. He excels at several other facets of the position, including blocking. 

"And here's a little bonus about Polk. I thought he was the best run-blocking wide receiver in the draft, just pound-for-pound strength," Rogers said. "It's phenomenal -- they would use him in motion and have him go right up through the A and B gap and take on linebackers. I mean, that tells you about the DNA of the player.

"And that's the other thing, the DNA of the player. One of my favorite players I talked to at the combine, he was absolutely loved by everybody in that Washington program. You are never going to question who the hardest worker in the wide receiver room is when Polk is there because it's going to be him.

"He just matches the future with Drake Maye under center so well -- a middle-of-the-field thrower with a guy who constantly works in between the numbers and makes difficult plays. 

"I'm glad Polk, at the end of the day, wasn't overlooked by the NFL, but it felt like throughout the scouting community, he wasn't appreciated enough throughout this process.

Also in this episode:

  • Phil shares his three "encouraging" and three "keep an eye on that" observations from Patriots’ rookie camp
  • Connor Rogers joins Phil to break down why he had Drake Maye ranked as his second-best QB in this year’s draft
  • How concerning is the team’s selection of Caedan Wallace?
  • Connor shares his draft grades on the rest of the AFC East
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