NEPD Staff Writer:Mike Gerken
For years, Patriots fans, including me, have clamored for a big play wide receiver to compliment their smaller quicker guys. Lafell has been a nice addition to the receiving corp this year and Edelman has turned into a go-to slot receiver, but the position has little else to show in terms of production. Free agent signee Danny Amendola has been a major disappointment as well as recent draft picks Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson. All three could be out the door by the time the draft roles around and once again the Patriots may look to overhaul the position. If that is the case, is Tony Lippett a possibility?
Name: Tony Lippett
School: Michigan State, (rSr.)
Weight: 190 lbs.
At 6’3″ Lippett has the size you look for from an outside receiver. He runs great routes, in fact, he is probably the best route runner I have watched to date. He sells his routes well and does not tip off the route he is running. Lippett has very good balance in and out of cuts and is able to keep his momentum through routes. It is for this reason that he has shown that he can also play cornerback, which is a plus. He has great hands, rarely allowing the ball to get into his body, and he attacks the ball rather than letting it come to him. He is willing to run routes over the middle and shows no fear of taking a hit after making a catch. Lippett also shows the ability to make the tough catches. He routinely made catches in traffic and can hig- point the ball, making it difficult for defenders to defend him on contested balls. In the first clip below, you see both a positive and a negative. On one hand, Lippett makes a great catch over a couple of defenders, on the other, it shows his struggle to get separation from the defender. On the second clip, Lippett sets up his route nicely and makes a smooth cut and good catch to get the first down.
If Lippett is going to succeed at the next level, he must get stronger. At 190 lbs. he has trouble with physical corners knocking his timing off in his routes. Lippett has good, but not great speed and may have trouble getting separation in the NFL. In the play below, Lippett goes up against potential first round pick Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Olomu handles him easily both physically and from a speed perspective. Olomu was not on him a lot in this game (which was disappointing), but when he was, the results were pretty consistent with Olomu winning despite the huge height advantage Lippett had.
Lippett has made huge strides in his game from last year to the current season. You can tell that he worked hard to improve his route running and his hands. From a route running aspect, he can join an NFL team and be ready to contribute. He shows the smarts to set up defenders and get himself open and in the proper position to catch the ball. Physically though, he has a ways to go. I am afraid he is going to struggle at maintaining his route discipline when corners get their hands on him. I also think he may be better suited as a more possession type receiver in the Brandon Lafell mold. He is a long strider but I do not see elite speed to be a downfield threat on a consistent basis. I like his game and his potential, but I am not sure he should be a wide receiver target for the Patriots because he doesn’t fill the specific role the Patriots need. I could see him being a late Day 2 pick for another team, but for the Patriots, I would give him a Day 3 grade.