Drafting Wide Receivers: A Patriots Case Study

Patriots Draft WR

Taylor Price wasn't the answer. Unless the question was "Who is the latest bust at WR for the Patriots?"

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.

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29 Responses to “Drafting Wide Receivers: A Patriots Case Study”

  1. Eric D says:

    I enjoy following the draft as it happens and there have been a few times that I recall being all excited that the obvious player the Pats needed was still on the board, and then I stare in disbelief at the TV as BB reached for some obviously lesser player or trades the pick for a couple 7th rounders.

    The times that I will never forget are in 2009 when C. Matthews was available and BB traded it for multiple picks, but then I was excited once they got to picks #40 and 41 and the player I felt was Mike Vrabel 2.0 still on the board (OLB Connor Barwin of the U of Cincinnati). I then saw the name Ron Brace appear on the screen (who I had never heard of, and I had read everything I could on the best prospects leading up to draft day) and I almost threw a shoe at the TV in dismay and disgust.

    The other time that sticks out in my memory of a similar reaction was in 2004 when BB reached for RB Cedrick Cobbs in the 4th round with Michael Turner still on the board, a player that I had deduced from all the prospects evaluations I had read in the two months prior to the draft was one of the best values at the RB position in the draft (and in those days I read everything I could find online by people like Brandt and Mayrock, as well as all those paperback publications that start showing up in the bookstores around early March – virtually every expert’s evaluation I had read listed Turner as a better RB prospect than Cobbs).

    I must admit that in 2006 when the Pats traded up to select Chad Jackson, at the time I thought it was a great move.

  2. simval says:

    I know we think the Pats draft poorly but if u take other teams in the league like I have and check out how they have done in recent years and where they pick as to the Pats we have,we have done OK.

    • TD says:

      Agreed, there are really only a few teams that have a good track record of drafting WR’s: GB, NYG & NO.

  3. BOB says:

    I really appreciate this article. I like that it has good depth in the drafting analysis and ties it directly to performance. I do wonder how much of this is about TB12 deciding if he trusts his reciever or not? I think looking the same way at the TE spot in terms of very poor history of drafting until just recently. I feel like every year they pick 1-2 positions they take multiple pics on (RB & OL last year, TE the year before) and focus on volume to reduce risks. With WR, I hope the address it w/ FA pickups and focus the defence with the draft. Of course CB/S seems a gamble drafting too. Can you look at other key positional needs in a similar way with respect to past performance? It is really interesting with BB having a solid history with the Pats now and seems a consistant that they continue to learn from mistakes and grow. This certainly will be a fun and interesting draft and FA period. They have alot of resources to work with: Draft pics, Cap Room and great home for vet. FA.

  4. Bill says:

    Looking at the Mocks, Alshon Jeffery looks like a 2nd round pick. A guy rthat dominated the best confwerence with the best DB’s in the country. If he’s there at 27 or 31, why not?

    • Tom says:

      I don’t know if dominate is the right word as it looks like he had a drop off in production from 2010 to 2011. You bring up a good point about the conference that he plays in though, but SC did not play Alabama or LSU this year (Jeffery had a great game against Alabama in 2010). However, three of the CBs in the top 100 played were on teams that SC played in 2011 and Jefferey had decent games in each. He also probably went against Gilmore everyday in practice which I am sure helped his development.

  5. That guy says:

    Belichek won’t pick these players. Let’s not mention them. it only leads to disappointment. Can we just expect another “quantity over quality” draft?

    • TD says:

      Who would have guessed in 2007 that he would bring in Stallworth, Welker & Moss? That was 2 WR’s able to go vertical and 2 slot guys.

  6. TD says:

    I think the issue of WR and lack of vertical passing attack is why BB jumped at the chance to bring back McDaniels.

    He was responsible for getting Denver Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker along with rejuvinating Brandon Lloyd, not to mention orchestrating that 2007 offense w/Moss, Welker, Stallworth & gaffney.

    With a new OC in town, I expect a major upgrade at WR. We desperately need upgrades at Wideout spots so Welker can get back to working the mismatches in the slot.

  7. Tommy says:

    I’d like to see a real “buy in” by the Pats, as far as the WR position goes. By that I mean, sign a young veteran type (Colston), then double dip in the draft & bring in one guy on the level of a Joe Adams & a second, development/high ceiling player, like Tommy Streeter out of Miami. By doing that, they get a quick fix, but also continue to keep an eye on 2-3 years from now. Bringing in WR’s who can quickly get 30-40 yards down field immediately opens up the underneath for Welker, Gronk & Hernandez. They also need to stop having to rely on 2-3 passes to get 30-40 yds downfield. Get guys who can do it in one play.

  8. Jon says:

    I really agree with this article. I would also advocate them taking more than one wideout like they have with the TE and RB positions recently. Cast the net out and see who Brady responds to. They need to reload at this position, and I think with McDaniels back and the right personnel Brady could put on a light show.

    • DWE 2012 says:

      Would you advocate them taking MORE THAN ONE W.R. in the draft, or would you rather see as many would…..them re-signing RANDY MOSS as today he announced that he was coming back to the NFL now that he has got his personel house in order.

      P.S.- Tom Brady has already stated that he “Would Love To Throw To Randy Moss AGAIN”.

      Also note: The W.R. core TB12 had to throw at for the 2007 year, was as follows:

      Randy Moss,
      Donte’ Stallworth (medium at best grade and not defined as “CLUTCH”),
      Wes Welker: Who was just getting things started/his Patriot groove on,
      **COUGH-cough: Jabor Gafney……..,
      Reche Caldwell……Really? Caldwell? Really?
      and #15 MR. Kelly Washington………WHO?
      We had Practice Squad Guys in case of emergencies like:
      Kevin Knight…?
      and Bam Flippen’ Childress.

      I do believe GOOD OLD Chad Jackson was somewhere around, maybe on PUP list.

      So Would TB12 had had to wait SO LONG too throw the ball and get hit so much in that game if TB12 actually had a receiving core that was bigger/better than 1 and 1/2 guys???????

      RAndy Moss was P.O.’d that he STill wasn’t spoken too about a simple two year contract that would essentially retire hin a N.E. Patriot.
      Brady’s contract was also late, and he was questioned in practice/pre-season, he was clearly upset also at the time.
      Logan MAkins…..Well we all know what that soap opera well don’t we. & he was much more vocal that Randy actually was(and Specific).

      So IF Randy Moss wan’t to come back into the NFL after getting his personel house in order and #12 TOM BRADY states the same day when asked…..”I Would LOVE To Throw The Ball To Randy Moss Again”…………

      I say “LET RANDY PLAY”!!!
      Do It now, and give TB12 a real Wide Reiceiving core to play with, not the usual 1 and 1/2 guys with a few sub standard’s to work with!!!!

      Randy Moss,
      Wes Welker,
      Brandon Loyd,
      Dion Branch, #1,2,3 and 4.

      (2) Ball Catching TE’s and Underwood for branch to school in his last year here.

      If we sign Randy, He’ll light a fire under TB12 for sure, and cutting CHAD “OCHO” JOHNSON ‘s will essentially pay for if not most of MOSS from the get-go. IT’s A win-win-win for all sides.

      + It leaves a draft pick to move up with for a real DL to compliment Big-Vince WIlfork. Win-Win-Win…

  9. prioris says:

    >Price didn’t last more than 1 season in New England, which speaks to how far behind he really must have been.

    Price was not behind. Price was never given a chance.

    Price played stellar in preseason game but was never given a real chance in a real game.

    I also thought Price had very good hands also. Something that is hard to find.

    We’ll see how he does with the other team.

    • cash says:

      I completely agree. All young WRs are gonna make mistkes. This is where BB needs to realize that young guys make mistake and you have to learn, its the only way they get better. Im sure Mike Wallace and and antoni brown hVE MADE mistakes. but you call them growing pains

  10. Larry says:

    It’s not only wideouts Bellichick has problems drafting………… Look at their defence, it’s a direct result of many lousy drafts and poor free agent signings over many years…………………..He is a great Hall of Fame Coach but is a very mediocre GM……………………….

    • Lundahl says:

      Superficial and sectarian points are not welcomed here. This is not productive, this is just throwing out media-product slogans.

      • Eric D says:

        To Lundahl:

        Your response to Larry’s spot-on comments regarding Belichick’s weaknesses as a GM (as opposed to his strengths as a HC) doesn’t make any sense, and I read it over three times. “Superficial and sectarian points”? WTH are you talking about?! Your entire response to Larry is a non sequitur.

        If you read this, I can pretty much guess your next thought is “what’s a non sequitur?” Don’t worry, I foresaw your confusion, so I’ll help you. Here is a link to what one is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non_sequitur_(logic)

  11. Tom says:

    I bet they look at Sanu or Rueben Randle (LSU) early…. and look at one of the many slot receivers in the 3rd-4th round:
    Ryan Broyles
    Devan Wylie
    T.Y. Hilton

    • ollie says:

      If Rueben Randle (LSU)Rumor says,Randle’s 40 time is down to a 4.3
      His stock is going to rise…Cant wait to see him run in the combine..

  12. jim r says:

    They should look to draft a wr 3rd or 4th round. They should pick up a wr in FA. The needs on Defense should be the top priority

  13. Billy C says:

    This article makes good points about the shortcomings of the receivers that the Patriots have drafted in recent years, however, Mike then goes on to say that we need to trade up to get one of his receivers that were listed above. In actuality, of the listed receivers, only Wright and Floyd may go before the 27th pick. The other receivers will go well after the first (Sanu and Adams second round), so I’m not sure why we would trade up to get a receiver in an obvious deep receiver draft class. As for the Julio Jones trade I agree with BB that it was a hefty bounty paid for a receiver, and as a Patriots fan I can tell you I’m not frustrated with his decision not to make a Julio Jones type of trade. I’d sit tight at our picks and continue to make solid draft decisions.

  14. Lundahl says:

    But I agree they need to find someone who can really produce long term. Plus afterwards if Mallett takes over, he’ll need a reliable target.

  15. Lundahl says:

    Ok, but they did get Moss and Welker, and they drafted Hernandez and Gronk. So really couldn’t care less about Price and Jackson. I’d be happy if Lloyd joins us and if eventually they do draft a player like Adams or the kid from Purdue.

  16. Patriots Draft Guru says:

    If Justin Blackmon falls, trade up and get him.

    If Kendall Wright falls, trade up and get him.

    • Pats Fan says:

      The only way I see the Patriots trading up is if Morris Claiborne falls ALOT… I think Marvin Jones or Juron Criner would be a perfect fit in this offense. I think we’ll draft 2 WRs in this draft similar to 2 RBs last year and 2 TEs in 2010. Criner in the 2nd and Jones in the 4th.

      • Lundahl says:

        No way !!! You do not trade up in this draft class, there’s too much depth !!!

        • DWE 2012 says:

          Not for a wide Out, But you sure as heck do for a Dontari Poe on our “D” line to compliment Wilfork.
          As for WR….Get Brandon Loyd in here out of F.A., Welker and Loyd make #1 and 2, We have (2) ball catching TE’s in A-hern and Gronk, Branch for 1 more year so he can tutor the newbies…. and by that I mean Underwood since we signed him again, as well as whomever they get in the draft. That makes 6 ball catchers assuming we draft one.
          Jump up, Sign POE. Snag The best Safety we can get with our 2nd selection, and then go for a WR if their is one worth while in the second round.

          We have the need for a WR yes, but it’s our “D” that needs more concern.

          I’d be fine all day with knowing we have Welker, Loyd as #1 and 2. Branch, with a newbie for him to tutor, Underwood who Branch and the others can work on as well and The Wonder Twin TE’s in A-Hern and Gronk catching balls from TB12.

          One decent WR is all we need out of this draft. The other can come from From Free Agency(BRANDON LOYD).

      • jim r says:

        Jones or Criner would be nice in the 3rd or 4th round

  17. soxfann1980 says:

    IMO Ryan Broyles would be a perfect fit for this team. I know he had a really bad injury and probably wont be ready for next year, but i would easily take him with the last second round pick or in the third if he falls.

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