Patriots

5 things to know about wide receiver Kendrick Bourne

"Sometimes I'm like, 'I'm glad he doesn't know how big this moment is because he looks as fearless as can be.'"

Kendrick Bourne Patriots
Kendrick Bourne during a 49ers-Seahawks game on Jan. 3, 2021. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

The Patriots reportedly agreed to sign former 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne on Monday to a three-year deal worth up to $22.5 million.

Bourne, 25, is a four-year NFL veteran (all spent with the 49ers), in which he totaled 137 catches for 1,769 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was a member of San Francisco’s run to Super Bowl LIV, catching six passes for 88 yards and a touchdown across three playoff games.

Here are a few other things to know about one of New England’s newest additions:

He played alongside Cooper Kupp in college.

Bourne was a lesser heralded recruit coming out of Milwaukie Academy of the Arts in Oregon in 2013.

The talented receiver found a college home at Eastern Washington University, competing in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). He established himself as a reliable receiver (catching 211 passes in four years) with an eye for the end zone (hauling in 27 touchdowns in his college career).

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Bourne’s best season came as a senior in 2016, when he made 79 receptions for 1,201 yards and seven touchdowns, helping the Eagles’ 12-2 record and No. 4 FCS ranking. Yet he actually began the year with the third team due to academic performance, battling back to prove his ability:

While there, Bourne played alongside fellow receiver standout Cooper Kupp (now with the Rams). The duo was one of the best in college football, helping Eastern Washington to a staggering 5,614 yards passing in both of their final seasons.

He was an undrafted free agent with the 49ers.

Bourne entered 49ers training camp in 2017 competing to simply make the team. He battled veterans Bruce Ellington, Aldrick Robinson, and Jeremy Kerley to avoid being cut.

In the end, San Francisco head coach Mike Shanahan liked what he saw in Bourne, keeping him around as an undrafted free agent.

“Bourne, when you sit there and get on him, he still sits there and smiles at you,” Shanahan said of Bourne in 2019. “At first, it used to drive me crazy because it’s like, ‘Are you not bothered by it?’ He is. He’s trying his hardest, he’s trying to go out there, but he really loves to play football, and I think you guys can see how he plays in that, and I think sometimes that can get taken the wrong way in terms of [thinking] he’s not locked in and detailed on it, and he is.

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“He works at it all week. He has a lot of fun out there, which sometimes he will make some mistakes. But I also think it’s kind of his gift and his curse. It’s also why he’s never freaking out, out there either. I mean, he is loose, and the game is not too big for him, no matter what the situation is. And sometimes I’m like, ‘I’m glad he doesn’t know how big this moment is because he looks as fearless as can be.'”

He developed a good relationship with Jimmy Garoppolo.

Midway through Bourne’s rookie season in 2017, the 49ers traded for Jimmy Garoppolo. The former Patriot became San Francisco’s starter and quickly developed good chemistry with the young wide receiver.

In fact, Bourne ranks second only to tight end George Kittle in career touchdown receptions on throws from Garoppolo (with six total).

“KB, he finds space,” Garoppolo explained in a 2019 interview. “He’s a good, instinctive player who, if the initial play isn’t there or we’re a little off-schedule, he has no problem working, puts his hands up, all those little things that you do when the play breaks down. He’s phenomenal at it.”

He has a proven ability to make clutch catches.

Though Bourne might not possess high-end speed (he ran a 4.68 40-time at the NFL rookie combine in 2017), he has a knack for making catches on important downs.

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Bourne was labeled a “third-down and red-zone specialist” by 49ers reporters Matt Barrows and David Lombardi of The Athletic in a recent description, and the numbers support it.

In 2019, during the 49ers’ 13-3 season, 23 of Bourne’s 30 catches went for first downs. He also caught five touchdowns (including two in a high-profile win over the Saints that December).

Last season, 35 of Bourne’s 49 receptions went for first downs. He might be the exact type of receiver the Patriots need to help keep drives from stalling.

He has quickness that the Patriots covet.

As difficult as Bill Belichick generally is to predict in his personnel moves, one statistical measurement has usually been a good indicator of the Patriots’ potential interest in a receiver.

The three-cone drill, used to measure a player’s change of direction and acceleration, has historically been something that New England evaluators have paid attention to.

Players like Deion Branch (6.71 seconds) and Julian Edelman (who ran a 6.62 second three-cone drill at his pro day in 2009) have been good examples of the Patriots pursuing players with strong times in the drill.

Bourne ran a 6.73 time in the three-cone drill, exemplifying the type of quickness that Belichick appears to prioritize.

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