NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
It’s become like a cruel joke around here in New England. Every year or two the Patriots draft a WR and the hopes of Patriots Nation immediately are sky high. Everyone swears that this time this one will turn into a star.
With Tom Brady at QB any receiver brought to New England will be successful, or so it was once thought. While other teams are drafting Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace and other pro bowl receivers we have been stuck with the Taylor Prices and Chad Jackson’s of the world.
Why can other teams seemingly draft such quality WRs and the Patriots strikeout with the position year after year? I went back and looked at each WR the Patriots drafted looking at how they fared in college, how they did at the combine and what may have made the Patriots draft them.
Here is what I found.
WRs Drafted By the Patriots since 2002
Round 2- Deion Branch, Louisville – 5’9″1/8 – 191 lbs – 4.47 – 6.71 (3 Cone)
Round 7- David Givens, Notre Dame – 6’0 – 217 – 4.56 – 6.82 (3 Cone)
Round 2- Bethel Johnson, Texas A&M – 5’11”- 201 lbs- 4.38
Round 5- P.K. Sam, Florida State – 6’3″3/8- 210- 4.54
Round 2- Chad Jackson, Florida – 6’0″7/8 – 213- 4.32- 6.74 (3 Cone)
3rd Round- Brandon Tate, North Carolina – 6’0″- 183- 4.52- 7.25 (3 Cone)
3rd Round- Taylor Price, Ohio – 6’0″ 3/8 – 204- 4.40 – 6.82 (3 Cone)
Just looking at the basic numbers and stats somethings jump out right away.
1) If you take out Deion Branch no WR the Patriots have drafted has ever had a receiving season in college where they eclipsed 1000 yards in a season. Only Chad Jackson was even close.
2) The Patriots prefer their WRs to be right around 6’0″ tall and right around 200 pounds.
3) They like WRs who run fast, taking Brandon Tate’s 40 numbers out of it because he was recovering from a knee injury every WR they drafted was between 4.32 and 4.56. They haven’t drafted a WR outside of the top 3 rounds who runs slower than a 4.47.
4) The Patriots value the 3 Cone drill very highly when evaluating WRs and DBs. Almost all WRs and DBs they have drafted have been in the top 10 of the 3 cone drill at the combine.
Something that is somewhat baffling to me is why the Patriots draft some of the receivers they do. The Patriots run a precision passing offensive built on quick decisions, option routes and reading coverages.
The Patriots seem to be drafting WRs based on projection rather than what they can ACTUALLY do. It’s also apparent that the Patriots heavily weigh a receiver’s ability to return kicks and tend to shy away from guys who can’t. All the receivers mentioned above, except for Taylor Price, returned kicks at some point late in their college careers, and Price was returning kicks when he was in New England.
For a team that values production at the college level highly, they certainly don’t weigh that heavily at the WR spot. Each WR drafted has had some sort of question mark on them and was taken over much more productive college receivers.
1) Brandon Tate was coming off a recently torn ACL. At times he outplayed Hakeem Nicks, however Tate was known more for his return ability. They passed on Mike Wallace who was drafted immediately after Tate. Tate has already been released from the Patriots. While he has shown solid return ability, his poor route running and inconsistent hands were a quick ticket out of town.
2) Taylor Price came from a poor passing offense at Ohio, especially efficiency wise. The most balls he every caught in a season was 56 his senior year. The route concepts at Ohio were very basic and he wasn’t asked to do much in way of running option routes. So naturally when he came to New England he struggled to pick up the route tree and playbook. Price didn’t last more than 1 season in New England, which speaks to how far behind he really must have been.
3) Chad Jackson was an amazing athlete, one of the best in the draft. However, his football IQ, route running and dedication were all highly questionable. Jackson was able to get by on his athleticism alone in college. That doesn’t play in the NFL. Jackson’s poor work ethic and “Star” attitude were immediately evident in New England and he quickly busted. The Patriots passed up a lot of WRs who were more polished and more accomplished coming out of college than Chad Jackson.
4) Bethel Johnson was more of the same. A raw WR who was more of an explosive return-man than WR. He was considered a reach at the time and struggled to pick up the complex passing system. Johnson didn’t last very long in New England or anywhere else in the NFL.
5) David Givens, who ended up working out, was a shot in the dark. He was coming off a very unproductive college career where he recorded 4 year totals of 72-814-3. The Patriots took a shot and it worked out. Givens was a smart WR who knew what he could and couldn’t do, it’s safe to say they got lucky with Givens.
Click on page 2 to see what the Pats should do, and what prospects fit the bill.