Will the New England Patriots go back to a well that's been bone-dry for much of the last two decades?
While Bill Belichick has a poor track record of drafting wide receivers (2019 first-rounder N'Keal Harry being the most recent example), that may not stop his team from taking a pass-catcher in the 2023 NFL Draft. New England needs more offensive playmakers after recording just 19 receiving touchdowns in 17 games last season (tied for 19th in the NFL), and trades for veterans like DeAndre Hopkins and Jerry Jeudy seem unlikely at the moment.
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So, if wide receiver is on the Patriots' draft wish list, who might they select? ESPN.com's Jordan Reid recently shared three names to watch.
"New England has shown interest in the top wideouts in this class, though it might not take one in Round 1," Reid wrote Thursday. "That includes Zay Flowers (Boston College), whom the team hosted on a top-30 visit and coached at the East-West Shrine Bowl. I've heard the Patriots are also taking a closer look at Jordan Addison (USC) and Jonathan Mingo (Ole Miss)."
Flowers may have the highest ceiling of the trio; he racked up 78 receptions, 1,077 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns for the Eagles in 2022 despite receiving extra attention from defenses as BC's primary offensive threat. In a recent NFL Mock Draft, our Phil Perry had the Patriots trading down from No. 14 to No. 25 and tabbing Flowers, who could flourish as a slot option for new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.
"For Bill O'Brien, who we know has the ability to free up slot receivers in the Patriots offense, Flowers would be a dynamic do-it-all type," Perry wrote. "Short-to-intermediate routes ... end-arounds ... screens ... But there's more to his game than that. Flowers doesn't look like a classic down-the-field threat (5-foot-9, 182 pounds), but he can test corners and safeties deep with the juice he possesses."
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Addison also met with the Patriots and could be a late first-round pick as well; he won the Biletnikoff Award as college football's best wide receiver in 2021 with Pittsburgh before transferring to USC, where he tallied 59 receptions for 875 yards with eight touchdowns for the Trojans.
The question is whether New England would use a first-round pick on a wide receiver or wait to find value in the later rounds. That value could come in the form of Mingo, whom Perry had the Patriots selecting in the fourth round in his latest seven-round Patriots mock draft.
"This 6-foot-2, 220-pounder looks like a bigger, more athletic version of JuJu Smith-Schuster. And his physical skill set (4.46-second 40, 39.5-inch vertical, 10-foot-9 broad) may allow him to play outside in a way that Smith-Schuster doesn't," Perry wrote of Mingo.
Given New England's needs at premium positions like cornerback and offensive tackle, it may make sense to target a wideout like Mingo in the later rounds -- but it sounds like the Patriots are very much in the mix for projected first-rounders as well.