MORSE: Patriots Roster Analysis Part 4: Wide Receivers
As we await the start of Training Camp later this month I will fill the void with my Roster Analysis. This has generated some conversations, both Pro and Con. We continue with Part 4, the much-maligned receiving corps.
N’Keal Harry – Harry has been a major disappointment. The former 1st round selection looks like he doesn’t belong in the NFL. I can’t believe the Patriots scouts and draft personnel could not see these flaws in the draft’s workouts. I have read that Harry was a pick by BB and he ignored the advice of his scouts and made the pick himself. I am hoping that Harry is dealt before the 53 man cutoff. I don’t have him making the team in my Pre-Camp 53 man Roster prediction coming out just before camp starts on July 28th.
Gunner Olszewski – Fearless was the title of Julian Edelman’s book. You can use that word to describe Olszewski. You might even say Gunner is like a whirling dervish, a Tasmanian devil. He throws his body around, taking no regard for his own safety. Olszewski was named AP All-Pro as a Punt Returner. His 17.3 average set a franchise record and was the 2nd highest since the merger of the AFL and NFL. He added 5 receptions for 62 yards and a TD (12.4 avg). Given the opportunity, I like Olszewski as a replacement for Julian Edelman. They are a fascinating comparison at this stage of their careers. Both players played other positions in college, Edelman QB and Olszewski CB/FS. Edelman had several advantages. He played QB, so he already knew the pass route tree and he played FCS Division I football. Olszewski was a Division II player. Edelman is one of the quickest players to play the slot position. At 5’ 10.4”, 195 lbs he ran a 4.52 40 yard dash (40), 3.92 Short Shuttle (SS), and a 6.62 3-cone drill. The Short Shuttle would have been the tops at the combine. Olszewski is 6’, 190 lbs and ran 4.56 40, 4.37 SS, and 6.88 3-cone. Not near Edelman’s numbers, but nothing to sneeze at either. Can he develop into that clutch slot player? He will definitely be one of 5 WRs I have making the team because of his return ability.
Nelson Agholor – One of the two WR Free Agent signings this offseason. He stands 6’, 198 lbs and runs 40 in 4.52, 4.34 SS, 6.88 3-cone drill. He is more quick than fast. The former #1 selection by the Eagles in 2015, had his best season in 2020 with 48 receptions for 896 yards and averaged 18.7 yards per catch. He also added 8 TDs. In 2017 with the Eagles he had 62 catches, 768 yards, 12.4 average with 8 TDs. Against the Pats in SB LII, Agholor had 9 catches for 82 yards. What does he bring to the Patriots? The 6th year vet brings experience and great route running. Las Vegas threw the ball deep last year and Agholor was the beneficiary. He turned that into a big payday and I think the Pats overpaid to acquire his services. I expect the Patriots to throw deep, off of play-action passing, but not often. In comparison to the rest of the league, Agholor won’t be in the top 50 WRs. With the signing of two premier TEs, he will be fighting them for limited targets. Agholor is the #1 wide receiver on the team and unless he is injured during pre-season, will be on the 53 man roster.
Kendrick Bourne – The second Free Agent WR is a possession receiver. He runs good routes and is reliable. He will be in the right place at the right time. He stands 6’1”, 203 lbs and runs 4.68 40, 4.21 SS, and 6.73 3-Cone. Like Agholor, he is more quick than fast. His 40 time aligns with Jakobi Myers. San Francisco signed him as an Un-Drafted Free Agent (UDFA) after the 2017 Draft. He was very productive in college with back-to-back seasons of 70 catches, 982, and 1207 yards respectively. He added 15 TDs in those seasons. At Eastern Washington, he wasn’t their best WR, that honor went to Cooper Kupp. He will make the team but his role is unclear, as it appears to be a duplicate of Myers.
Jakobi Myers – An UDFA signed after the 2019 draft, Myers led the Patriots in receptions last year with 59. He had 729 yards for a 12.4 average. However, he had no TD receptions. He did have two TD passes. He became the #1 target, but near the goal line, he was invisible! Is that his fault for not getting separation or his QB fault for not looking for him? At 6’2” 203 lbs, he runs a 4.63, 4.23 Short Shuttle, 7.07 3-cone. Again, another possession receiver with good short-area quickness. I see him battling with Bourne for playing time, but ultimately making the team.
Tre Nixon – He was the celebrated last selection of the Patriots in this year’s draft. Nixon was selected by Ernie Adams as a gift from Belichick for his long service to the team. Standing 6’ and 187 lbs, he runs a 4.44 40, 4.25 SS, and 6.81 3-cone drill. He is fast but not a polished route runner. He lacks the 2nd gear to separate from DBs. In 2019 for the UCF Golden Knights, he had 47 receptions for 776 yards and a 15.1 average, chipped in 7 TDs. Before the 2020 season, Nixon was selected to the Biletnikoff watch list. In the first game, he broke his collarbone and missed all but the last three games. He managed 15 catches for 212 yards and 2 TDs. His average was 16.1 yards. Adams didn’t forget him, so given his ability to find the diamond in the rough as he did with David Givens, Nixon shouldn’t be overlooked. He may not make the team, but I suspect that he will have a spot on the Practice Squad if he shows well in pre-season.
Isaiah Zuber – Enigma is the word to describe Zuber. At Kansas St, he played 3 seasons and started 25 consecutive games his RS Soph and RS Junior seasons. He finished his career at K State with 141 catches, 1522 yards, and 10 TDs. He chose to transfer to Mississippi State as a graduate student with one year of eligibility left. That was a disastrous move, as he only started 3 games and had a 14-211-2 stat line for the season. He was suddenly off everyone’s radar for the 2020 draft. The Patriots picked him up as a UDFA. He appeared in 4 games for the Patriots last year, reverting back to the Practice Squad each time. Appearing that many times is a credit to Zuber. Most rookies don’t get that opportunity. Zuber is 5’ 11.2”, 190 lbs, runs an estimated 4.42 40. Some of the drawbacks for Zuber are; he drops too many passes; can’t hold onto the ball after contact, and he runs at one speed without that burst to separate himself from the DBs. You need to watch him in pre-season practices and games. He is right on the cusp of making the team.
Kristian Wilkerson – This is a player acquired off waivers from the Tennessee Titans at the final cut down last year. The report was, it was difficult for TEN to decide who to cut. Wilkerson was open and caught everything thrown to him in pre-season. The 6’1” 200 lb (Patriots.com has him at 214 lbs), runs a 4.5 40, 4.09 SS, and 6.68 3-cone drill. The SE Missouri (FCS) school product had a hell of a career there. It was nice to see Wilkerson practicing with Jarret Stidham and the other veteran WRs during the impromptu off-season workout in California. He is fighting for that last spot on the roster.
Devin Smith – The former 2015 2nd round pick of the New York Jets was signed by the Patriots to the Practice Squad in December 2020. Later he was re-signed to a Futures contract as soon as the season ended. Smith had a prolific career at Ohio St. He finished his career with 121 catches for 3,503 yards and 30 TDs. For his career, he averaged over 20 yards per catch. He played in 53 games for the Buckeyes and as a true freshman, caught a game-winning pass to defeat Wisconsin with 20 seconds left on the clock. He stands 6’ 186 lbs, ran 4.37 (handheld) and 4.42 (electronic) 40 at the combine. His SS was excellent at 4.15 and his 3-cone was 6.83. The 3-cone was performed at his Pro Day. He hurt a hamstring and couldn’t do the 3-cone at the combine. Not much is expected from Smith during camp. If they should catch lightning in a bottle and Smith does shine, then they are better for it. I don’t see him making the team.
Devin Ross – a late addition to the Patriots roster after a tryout. Per Mike Reiss, a Patriots scout attended a workout in San Diego and invited Ross to try out with the Patriots at the mandatory Mini Camp. He was signed at the conclusion of the mini-camp once some housekeeping was done on the roster. The Patriots cut a 2nd Long Snapper, Wes Farnsworth to sign Ross. The former Colorado Buffalo was in camp with the Patriots last season but was a final cut. He was signed to Practice Squad but then cut after 4 weeks. Ross is short at 5’9”, 192 lbs, ran a 4.52 40 at his Pro Day, 4.23 SS, 6.94 3-cone drill, and a Vertical Jump of 35”. He might be a poor man’s version of former Panther Steve Smith. I think Smith is just camp fodder, but let’s see what happens in camp. Smith is a long shot to make the team, but we have seen stranger things come cut down day.
Marvin Hall – Has speed to burn. The Washington product stands 5’10”, 190 lbs, and ran 4.28 40 at his Pro Day. Reports out of Detroit state that he is a threat to score every time he has the ball in his hands. There is no question about that. Last season for Detroit, he had 4 catches for 113 yards in a game against IND. Originally, he was signed as a UDFA by OAK in 2016. I think he is just a camp body and has little chance of making the team unless his speed stands out in practice and games.
Next Up – TE, FB, and Special Teams
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Devin Ross Devin Smith. Gunner Olszewski Isaiah Zuber Jakobi Myers Kendrick Bourne Kristian Wilkerson Marvin Hall N'Keal Harry Nelson Agholor New England Patriots Tre Nixon