While the Patriots’ search for a quarterback has taken up much of the offseason discourse, the team still has several needs. Perhaps their next biggest need is a wide receiver.
In a season that was marred by issues in the passing game, Patriots receivers failed to make much of an impact. The Patriots’ air game as a whole ranked 30th in the league, with Jakobi Meyers being the only player to record at least 50 receptions or 700 receiving yards. In addition, Patriots receivers combined for just four touchdowns catches in 2020, with N’Keal Harry accounting for two of them.
If the lack of production from the receiving corps in 2020 isn’t enough of a reason for the Patriots to upgrade that spot, they could lose Julian Edelman. The veteran receiver remains undecided on his football future after suffering a knee injury that forced him to miss 10 games last season.
With all of that being considered, it’s reasonable to think that the Patriots will address upgrading the receiver position in some form this offseason. Of course, one way they could do it is through the draft.
In their latest mock draft, Pro Football Focus has the Patriots selecting Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman with their first-round pick. PFF writer Anthony Treash explained that Bateman’s route-running ability would make for a good match in New England.
“We don’t know who will be leading the Pats’ offense next season, but that QB is obviously going to need some new receiving weapons,” Treash wrote. “Rashod Bateman certainly fits the bill. The Minnesota product is another top-notch route-runner with an elite release package. He played predominantly on the outside in 2019 before kicking inside into the slot for most of the shortened 2020 season, but he remained productive regardless of position.
“Bateman ranked seventh in the FBS in yards per route run in 2019 (3.48) and finished sixth in 2020 (3.45). The Minnesota receiver joined DeVonta Smith as the only receiver to generate more than 3.4 yards per route in each of the last two seasons.”
Bateman enjoyed a solid college career at Minnesota. His breakout season came in 2019, when he caught 60 passes for 1,219 yards and had 11 touchdowns. Bateman played in just five games in 2020 due to a shortened season. Bateman still made an impact though, recording at least 100 receiving yards in three of those games, finishing the year with 36 catches for 472 yards and two touchdowns.
Bateman has some speed, too. On Saturday, the receiver, who is listed standing at 6-foot-2 and weighs 210 pounds, ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the EXOS combine. The Minnesota receiver’s been ranked by most prospect evaluators as the fourth-best receiver in the draft class behind Alabama receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle as well as LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
Bateman isn’t the only receiving prospect that’s been predicted to be selected by the Patriots in mock drafts. NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter has the Patriots selecting Purdue receiver Rondale Moore with their second-round pick.
Moore had an explosive freshman season in 2018, recording 114 catches for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also added 213 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. However, Moore’s career slowed down the last two seasons, playing in just seven games over that span due to hamstring and lower-body injuries.
Moore has a small frame, having a listed height of 5-foot-9 and weighing 181 pounds, but makes up for it with his speed and strength. He ran a 4.33 40-yard dash entering college and posted a video of himself squatting 600 pounds. Pro Football Focus recorded Moore breaking 37 tackles in 2018, which is the most by a receiver in a Power 5 conference in a single season since they’ve recorded the stat.
“Rondale Moore should be considered one of the 2021 NFL Draft’s most electric prospects, but he’s also one of the biggest wildcards in the process,” TheDraftNetwork.com wrote of Moore in its scouting report of him. “When healthy, Moore is a multi-purpose weapon who can break open a football game with any touch of the football; he’s provided run after catch, special teams plays, rushing usage out of the backfield, and vertical receiving over the middle of the field.”
TheDraftNetwork.com cites Moore’s inability to stay healthy over the last couple of seasons as his biggest downside. Whether Moore is worth the risk is a question that won’t be answered for years, but the Patriots could use a playmaker like him or Bateman after how last season went.
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