Why an NFL insider believes Tyquan Thornton could make an impact in his rookie season
"He's been good in the Patriots' film room already – understands passing concepts."When the Patriots selected wide receiver Tyquan Thornton with their second-round pick in this spring’s NFL Draft, several analysts and experts were surprised. The Baylor product wasn’t expected to be drafted until Day 3 at the earliest, with most draft gurus projecting him to be a fourth or fifth-round pick.
The Patriots’ surprising pick is apparently turning into even more of a surprise. Appearing on “SportsCenter” on Sunday, ESPN NFL insider Jeremy Fowler pinpointed Thornton as one of three rookie receivers who could have an immediate impact based on conversations he’s had around the league.
“Tyquan Thornton, he was considered a surprise second-round pick,” Fowler said. “But talking to some people and some teams who interviewed him, they’re not as surprised. He was very sharp in team interviews. He’s been good in the Patriots’ film room already – understands passing concepts.
“They have a crowded room at receiver with four or five position players, but Thornton with that 4.2 [40-yard dash] speed should be able to crack in somewhere.”
As Fowler mentioned, Thornton will have a lot of competition if he wants to see playing time as a rookie. While the Patriots don’t boast a star receiver, they have several who have put up at least decent production in recent years. Jakobi Meyers has been the team’s leading receiver over the past two seasons, catching 83 passes in 2021. Kendrick Bourne had a strong first season in New England, posting career highs across the board (55 receptions for 800 yards and five touchdowns) with several analysts predicting him to possibly take another leap this season.
On the outside, veteran Nelson Agholor returns for a second season with the Patriots. His first year was a bit underwhelming (37 receptions for 473 yards and three touchdowns), but the 29-year-old just had 896 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. DeVante Parker, who was arguably the Patriots’ biggest addition this offseason, also joined the group.
The Patriots also have Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith at tight end, a pair of big-bodied receivers who can either make plays in the red zone (Henry) or in the open field (Smith).
But Thornton offers something that the rest of the Patriots’ receiving corps doesn’t: high-end speed. Thornton’s 4.28-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine was the fastest of all the receiver prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Thornton used that speed to his advantage and made big plays during his senior season at Baylor. He caught 62 passes for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2021.
The selection of Thornton, among others, appeared to show that Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh was emphasizing speed in his first draft in his new role. Groh was certainly excited about Thornton’s speed, but believes he can also do more than just run really fast in a straight line.
“I think [Thronton’s route running] even starts before that with his release,” Groh said in April. “This isn’t just a linear guy. You see him really be able to get off the line. And for as fast as he is…to be able to see him get in the red zone and do some things, and it’s not just speed, it’s 6-foot-2, ability to get up and really pluck the ball out of the air. So, there’s going to be a lot of different things that he’s going to be able to do to help.”
Some of Thornton’s new teammates are excited to have him too, including the players who he’s competing for playing time with.
“Tyquan’s dope,” Kendrick Bourne said in May. “We got to get some weight on my guy, but bro is blazing, though. Good attitude also. He’s bought in. You can tell he cares.”
“I think it was a dope pick, man,” Bourne added. “We need speed and we need to add that downfield threat. And so, I think he gives us another in that part of the field. That’s another thing — learning from him, too. I can learn from him. He can learn from us. He’s in the right place. If he has the right attitude and applies himself, this type of place will take you to another level.”
Thornton and the Patriots will have their first training camp practice on July 27.
The Patriots' surprising second-round pick could have a surprising impact in his rookie season. Read more on Boston.com.