Wide receivers Bill Belichick has drafted in the past could be best summed up by one adjective: freaky.
Stack up the numbers from Patriots picks of the past, and the average outside-the-numbers player Belichick has drafted in the first four rounds looks a lot -- from a height, weight and speed perspective -- like the guy who has an argument as the best receiver in the league right now: Justin Jefferson.
Jefferson measured 6-foot-1, 202 pounds at the combine in 2020. He ran a low 4.4-second 40 and his vertical leap measured 37.5 inches. The average high-end pick at receiver for Belichick -- including everyone from Tyquan Thornton to N'Keal Harry, Chad Jackson and more -- measures 6-foot-1, 202 pounds and has a 4.4-second 40, a 7.0-second three-cone drill and a 4.29-second shuttle.
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When it comes to the jumps, the Patriots average is above average as well at 37 inches for the vert and 10-foot-4 for the broad. None have measured shorter than 5-foot-11 and only two (Brandon Tate, Thornton) of the eight taken in the first four rounds weighed under 198 pounds.
The average slot Belichick has drafted -- many of which came in later rounds -- is a tick slower (4.44-second 40) and a little less explosive (36-inch vertical, 10-foot-1 broad). But the average slot is also, on average, significantly quicker (6.76-second three-cone, 4.09-second short shuttle). None have measured shorter than 5-foot-7 or lighter than 184 pounds.
New England Patriots
In addition to checking up on all standard measurements, we'll also dig into Kent Lee Platte's Relative Athletic Score for some context on this year's group of Prototypical Patriots at receiver. RAS factors in height, weight and athletic testing numbers to generate a score for any player with enough data to qualify.
Why is RAS useful for our purposes, particularly when it comes to the Patriots and the receivers they've drafted over the last two decades? Belichick has taken receivers only with "elite" scores (RAS of 8.00 or higher) in the first four rounds of the draft. They may be willing to compromise on weight -- as they showed last year with the Thornton pick -- but they don't appear ready to compromise on overall athleticism. Thornton had an "elite" RAS score, despite his 181 pounds, of 8.54.
Perry's Prototypical Patriots: Quarterbacks | Offensive linemen
Let's get into the specimens at the position who might be considered by the Patriots early in the draft, starting with the boundary pass-catching options. They may want one there after signing JuJu Smith-Schuster and tight end Mike Gesicki this offseason to help man the slot.
Quentin Johnston, TCU, 6-foot-3, 208 pounds
We've gone over Johnston's game in great detail during the pre-draft process, mocking him to the Patriots with the No. 14 overall pick, and speaking with Johnston himself for more insight on the Next Pats Podcast. He also had the two most important sets of eyes in the Patriots organization -- when it comes to the draft, at least -- at his pro day last week.
He's a forced-missed-tackle machine who can take a short throw and turn it into a chunk gain. He also has the explosiveness to go and get the football down the field.
Are his hands perfect? Nope. Is he going to be a middle-of-the-field maven? Probably not. But with better quarterback play, his drop rate should drop. And the Patriots are already pretty set up with middle-of-the-field pass catchers.
Johnston is a rare athlete and would give the Patriots the kind of home-run threat they don't have at the moment. He should be in play at No. 14 even if he doesn't check every box when it comes to his timed speed. His 7.31-second three-cone drill at his pro day may give the Patriots pause, but his size and his jumps are indicative of truly explosive physical ability. Even with underwhelming short-area times, Johnston is still solidly an "elite" RAS performer (8.95 out of 10).
Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss, 6-foot-2, 220 pounds
One of the best pound-for-pound athletes in this year's draft class, Mingo is heavier than the standard outside-the-numbers receiver, yet he still hits the explosiveness metrics Belichick typically likes. His 40 time (4.46 seconds) and leaps (39.5 vert, 10-foot-9 broad) were excellent. Better than those recorded by Harry, who was eight pounds heavier but still such an athletic freak that the Patriots were enticed to select him with a first-round pick.
Mingo has been on our radar since putting together a strong Senior Bowl week and then standing out to evaluators who interviewed him at the combine as a Patriots type.
Michael Wilson, Stanford, 6-foot-2, 213 pounds
Wilson was one of our wideouts from the Pac-12 to watch for the Patriots dating back to Super Bowl week when we spoke to Ashley Adamson of the Pac-12 Network. He's only continued to solidify his standing as a Patriots type elsewhere this offseason.
At the Senior Bowl, he showed off legit separation ability by understanding how to give himself breathing room at the tops of routes. He also went to the combine -- and while he didn't light stopwatches ablaze with his 4.58-second 40 -- he ran an excellent 6.81-second three-cone time. His shuttle was also likely satisfactory for Belichick at 4.27 seconds. His jumps were tremendous (37.5 vert, 10-foot-5 broad) at his size.
He dealt with injury for significant portions of his collegiate career, which also might make him a value play for a team that loves the "V" word. Combine it all with his character, his performance in Mobile and his route-running savvy, and Wilson looks like the kind of player New England would use both inside and out.
Marvin Mims, Oklahoma, 5-foot-11, 183 pounds
Trying to figure out where Mims fits best for the Patriots is a bit of a conundrum, though it would certainly fall under the "good problem to have" label. He's not a big body, but he meets the floor requirements for outside-the-numbers options in New England when it comes to his height and weight. And when it comes to his athleticism, there's no question he has the explosiveness to play on the outside.
His 4.38-second 40 mirrors that of Bethel Johnson, about whom Belichick said back in 2003, "we know he can run, and we think he should be a deep threat." Mims also posted elite jumps of 39.5 inches in the vert and 10-feet-9 in the broad.
His three-cone time wasn't as electric as the Patriots typically want from their slots (6.9 seconds) so we'll lean toward lumping him in with the boundary options. The reality is he could very likely function as a vertical weapon from the interior and play on the outside as well.
Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee, 6-feet, 176 pounds
Speed, speed and more speed. He's undersized. And his 4.40-second 40 doesn't seem to be all that indicative of just how explosive he is. His 11-foot-3 broad jump and 40-inch vertical are the telltale signs, along with the very strong 40, that this is a special athlete. And he'll need to be given the limitations on his frame.
He's not going to be the crafty route-runner that Bill O'Brien would like to deploy all over formations. But if you stick him outside? Force safeties to lean over the top in his direction? Not only does he have explosive playmaking ability himself, but his mere presence could lighten defensive fronts and lead to a more efficient running game.
What he brings to the table is limited. But what he brings to the table is also extremely valuable. For a team that hasn't had an offensive weapon that strikes fear into the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators, Hyatt is an interesting option.
A.T. Perry, Wake Forest, 6-foot-3, 198 pounds
Perry has prototypical boundary size and a whopping 11-foot-1 broad jump at this year's combine to go along with a fast enough 40 of 4.47 seconds. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compares Perry to none other than DeVante Parker.
He has hands that measure over nine inches and arms that are tackle-length at over 33 inches. His hands are inconsistent, which might hurt him in the eyes of the head coach who has long said the two jobs of a receiver are to a) get open and b) catch the football. But he had a strong Shrine Bowl in front of the Patriots coaching staff, and his rare physical traits are worthy of a gamble on Day 3 despite some concerns over drops.
Justin Shorter, Florida, 6-foot-4, 229 pounds
If the Patriots are still stinging about the N'Keal Harry selection and want a re-do in the later rounds of this year's draft, Shorter isn't a bad option. He's bigger by about an inch, almost the same weight, and he ran a nearly identical 40; his 4.55-second time was just two-hundredths of a second slower than Harry's, and his 10-yard split was better.
Harry had the better vertical and three-cone drill, but Shorter had the better broad jump (10-foot-6) and a vertical that falls within range for New England (35.5 inches), even if it's slightly below their boundary average.
Shorter, like Perry, was a Shrine Bowl participant. If the Patriots liked what they saw from him out in Vegas, he has intriguing physical traits that would make him a potential value play in the later rounds.
Andrei Iosivas, Princeton, 6-foot-3, 205 pounds
When it comes to physical measurements, this is about as prototypical as prototypical gets for the Patriots. Iosivas brings every measurable Belichick typically likes at this position -- and then some.
He's taller, heavier and quicker (6.85 three-cone, 4.12-second shuttle) than the average highly-drafted boundary wideout in New England. He also jumps higher (39-inch vert) and farther (10-foot-8 broad). He's a tick slower than the average Belichickian outside-the-numbers pick, but only a tick (4.43-second 40). Iosivas is a real track athlete, earning first-team All-American honors in the indoor heptathlon last year for Princeton.
He's lacking receiver polish, but has the types of physical characteristics that can't be taught. Should he be able to contribute in the kicking game while he finds his footing offensively, he'd be a high-upside later-round pick.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton, West Virginia, 6-foot-4, 221 pounds
Wideouts like Ford-Wheaton don't grow on trees. A next-level athlete, Ford-Wheaton would be the type of player who would be brought aboard to play in the kicking game -- he did in college -- and see if he can dial in his athletic gifts to produce offensively.
His 4.38-second 40, 41-inch vertical and 10-foot-9 broad are all eye-popping for someone with his frame. Same goes for his 4.15-second shuttle and 6.97-second cone. Two of his closest RAS comps? Two of the best to play the position in the last decade: Calvin and Andre Johnson.
Matt Landers, Arkansas, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds
With a 4.37 40-yard dash, a 37-inch vertical and a 10-foot-10 broad jump to his name -- with his frame -- Landers looks like he was built in a lab to play on the outside. He has the traits of a Prototypical Patriot. His production is what would make him a bit of an atypical pick.
In four seasons at Georgia, he had just 12 catches. He bounced from the Bulldogs to Toledo and then Arkansas, where he pulled in 47 catches for 901 yards and eight touchdowns. Did the light officially come on? Does he still have a long way to go? Either way, he has real juice and could be a boom-or-bust type that would only cost a Day 3 selection.
Cody Chrest, Sam Houston State, 6-feet, 193 pounds
Chrest is one of the best athletes in the class, with a 4.38-second 40 and a 6.77-second three-cone drill at 6-feet, 193 pounds. He also checked out of his pro day with a 38-inch vertical and a 10-foot-5 broad jump. He might be a tad light, but this Harvard transfer (led team in catches and yards as a senior, graduated with a degree in finance) checks a lot of boxes for Belichick.
He also ran an offense at Sam Houston that encouraged receivers to adjust their routes based on leverage and the coverage in the secondary. That might help him if he makes his way to Foxboro. Same goes for his special-teams experience as a gunner.
David Durden, West Florida, 6-foot-1, 204 pounds
Durden meets many of the Patriots' standards athletically thanks to his 4.46-second 40, a 37-inch vertical and a 10-foot-7 broad jump. He averaged 23.1 yards per catch in 2021 for Division 2 West Florida and followed that up with a 54-catch, 1,128-yard campaign with 13 scores in 2022. Durden was taken by the Red Sox in the 20th round of the 2017 MLB Draft.
Best of the rest: Boundary
Shedrick Jackson of Auburn had one of the most impressive pro days of any wideout in this year's class. At 6-foot-1, 193 pounds he ran a 4.31-second 40 to go along with a gargantuan 11-foot-2 broad jump. Flying under the radar thanks to some lackluster production for the Tigers (16 grabs, 217 yards), Jackson had the traits to do bigger things in a more functional offense. He's Bo Jackson's nephew.
Hard to compete with the Jacksons, but speaking of bloodlines, Chase Cota of Oregon has the length (6-foot-3, 201 pounds) and quickness (6.86 three-cone) to make a play for a roster spot somewhere. His dad, Chad, played eight years in the NFL as a safety.
With 33-inch arms, 10-inch hands and a 6-foot-2, 201-pound frame, Delaware's Thyrick Pitts has plenty going for him. His 4.45-second 40 and 39-inch vertical at that size will have the attention of pro evaluators.
Garrett Maag of North Dakota checked in at 6-foot-4, 206 pounds to his pro day and posted a massive 40.5-inch vertical. His 40 (4.50 seconds) and shuttle (4.34 seconds) won't wow anyone, but he has some real leaping ability as a potential possession type on the outside.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State, 6-foot-1, 196 pounds
Smith-Njigba had an opportunity to visit Fenway Park earlier this week and hinted that maybe, just maybe, he'll be back to the area soon as Belichick's latest first-round pick. If that's the route the Patriots want to go, it wouldn't be surprising. Even though they don't often draft Buckeyes -- they haven't taken one since grabbing Nate Ebner in the seventh round in 2009 -- they do draft quickness in the slot.
While Smith-Njigba is higher-cut than the typical Patriots interior receiver, he is amazingly quick. His stop-start ability -- 3.93-second short shuttle, 6.57-second three-cone drill -- looks similar to that of Julian Edelman even though he's three inches taller than the Patriots great.
Zay Flowers, Boston College, 5-foot-9, 182 pounds
We were high on Jaylen Waddle two offseasons ago as a dynamic inside-out threat who can succeed in a variety of different roles despite being undersized, thanks to his speed and explosive acceleration. Flowers is a similar type of prospect, it appears, though he's coming from a much different situation at The Heights than the one from which Waddle benefitted at Alabama.
The focus of opposing game plans on a weekly basis, Flowers still shattered Boston College receiving records and made defenders look foolish in the open field with an innate ability to make tacklers miss. For more on Flowers' game, have a listen to his head coach, Jeff Hafley, go on and on about why he'll find success at the NFL level.
Flowers' size makes him a better fit for the slot in Bill O'Brien's offense, but he has the speed (4.42-second 40) to threaten outside and he could be a threat on screens and out of the backfield for a creative offensive mind like the one now working in Foxboro.
Tyler Scott, Cincinnati, 5-foot-10, 177 pounds
If the Patriots are looking for an undersized burner and miss out on Flowers in the first round, they could do a lot worse than Scott on Day 2. He's got loads of explosive ability (39.5-inch vert, 11-foot-1 broad) packaged in a diminutive frame. And he seems faster on tape than his 4.44-second 40 would indicate.
The Patriots sent receivers coach Ross Douglas to the Bearcats pro day, but he's already plenty familiar with Scott's background as the two hail from just outside Cleveland. A former running back with a track background, Scott is a creator in the open field. Once he gets an angle... gone.
Though he's not the prototype from a weight standpoint, he's the kind of dynamic playmaker that would make an opposing defense sweat -- something the Patriots could use.
Josh Downs, North Carolina, 5-foot-9, 171 pounds
This class is loaded with very light, very athletic wideouts. But, as the Patriots have acknowledged in the past, they have to adapt to what they're being provided at the college level. In college football, coaches are getting creative with using "undersized" weapons who bring outsized athletic ability. In a game that's becoming increasingly about space, players who can eat it up at a ridiculous rate of speed -- no matter their size -- are valuable.
Downs fits into that category. He'd be the lightest receiver Belichick has ever drafted, but he's a freaky mover. His 4.48-second 40 isn't amazing, but his 6.75-second three-cone would play inside in New England. Add to that a 38.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot-11 broad, you can see why the Patriots might be intrigued.
Charlie Jones, Purdue, 5-foot-11, 175 pounds
Yup. Light. Another one. But he offers good change-of-direction ability that certainly clears the athletic-testing floors the Patriots have drafted in the past. He pulled off an impressive 4.43-second 40 to go along with a 36.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot-4 broad jump. And while he would be below average in terms of his quickness relative to other slots drafted by Belichick (4.15-second shuttle, 6.84-second three-cone), they're quick.
His concentration and ball skills will help him over the middle of the field where the windows are tight, and he understands how to settle in open spaces against zone. He also has experience returning kicks and punts so he could function in those roles if needed.
Thayer Thomas, NC State, 6-feet, 195 pounds
Now we're getting into some potential late-round -- or potentially undrafted -- gems. Thomas has the athletic ability to fit that description. The former walk-on for the Wolfpack blew away his pro day with a ridiculous 3.95-second short shuttle, a 6.89-second three-cone and a 37-inch vertical. He was a core-four special-teamer in college and was described as "above the one-percentile line when it comes to his work ethic," by coach Dave Doeren.
Another draft pick by the Red Sox -- taken in the 33rd round in 2019 -- Thomas had NFL great Torry Holt as his high school wide receivers coach, and he participated in the East-West Shrine Bowl in front of the Patriots coaching staff.
Best of the rest: Slot
Tank Dell from Houston was electric at times down in Mobile, Ala. at the Senior Bowl. And how players show out against some of the best upper-classmen in the country matters in Foxboro. Add that performance to an excellent 1.50-second 10-yard split on his 4.49-second 40, and he has the initial burst to be a factor at the next level. But his frame (5-foot-8, 165 pounds) prevents him from landing higher on this list. Hard to call him a "prototype" at that weight.
Jayden Reed from Michigan State was another player who tore it up at the Senior Bowl. He finished the week so strongly that ESPN's Louis Riddick told Next Pats he was one of his favorite players across positions at that particular all-star game. So why isn't he featured higher here? His test numbers were mostly within range of what the Patriots want in the slot (4.45-second 40, 33.5-inch vert, 10-foot-1 broad) but his shuttle time would be the slowest ever drafted by Belichick among slots. At 5-foot-11, 187 pounds, the Patriots are usually looking for more quickness.
Tre Tucker out of Cincinnati falls in a similar bucket as Reed with a glacial 4.49-second short-shuttle time. But the 5-foot-9, 182-pounder is explosive (4.40 40, 37.5-inch vertical), but the question is where he plays. Can he survive outside with his frame? Can he live inside with less-than-ideal change-of-direction ability? There are traits there but he's not as easily projectable as some others listed here.