Bill Belichick often gets described as a defensive mastermind. While that may be true, New England Patriots fans wish he had the same stroke of genius for figuring things out on the other side of the ball.
As a general manager, Belichick simply hasn’t done a great job of building a championship-caliber offense. In particular, he’s struggled to find the right pass-catchers for Josh McDaniels’ system.
Ironically, the latest report on the Patriots’ wide receiver situation both helps and hurts Belichick’s reputation as a GM. And even if one of his many diamond-in-the-rough discoveries works out better than expected, that doesn’t excuse the costly mistake he made during the first round of the 2019 NFL draft.
The Patriots have a position group full of question marks
The Patriots have quite an interesting wide receiver depth chart.
Nelson Agholor should open the season as the team’s No. 1 wideout. Although he didn’t live up to expectations as a first-round pick with the Philadelphia Eagles, he set himself for a nice payday by catching 48 passes for 896 yards and eight touchdowns with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020. But given his inconsistent track record of production (he has three seasons with less than 400 receiving yards), Agholor must prove his breakout 2020 campaign wasn’t a complete fluke.
Fellow free-agent addition Kendrick Bourne should see plenty of action, too. Known as a precise route-runner, he should perform well in an offense that’s predicated on timing and precision. Still, the fact the Patriots can get out of his three-year, $15 million deal after the season with only $2.83 million in dead money shows his future is far from certain.
The next two names on the depth chart include young players at different stages of their careers.
Jakobi Meyers made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2019. After catching 29 passes for 359 yards as a rookie, he emerged as a reliable weapon during the 2020 season. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound wideout doesn’t have elite athletic traits, which raises questions about his ability to play a more prominent role moving forward. His upside as a big slot receiver gives him a chance to carve out a long career in New England, though.
Meanwhile, 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry needs to prove he deserves to stick around for another year in New England. After two injury-plagued, low-impact seasons, he can’t afford to have any setbacks this summer.
The latest report on New England’s wide receiver situation makes Bill Belichick look like a genius and a fool
Meyers and Harry both have a lot to prove over the coming months. The former needs to show he’s mastered the nuances of New England’s system to earn a major role in the passing game. The latter must prove he can contribute in a positive way at all.
Luckily for Belichick, the latest report on the state of the Patriots’ receiver situation makes him look like a genius.
Unfortunately for the legendary coach, it also makes him look even worse for foolishly betting on Harry.
According to Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald, Meyers enjoyed a strong spring and could look like the Patriots’ No. 1 option at minicamp this week. While that may have to do with the fact that Agholor and Bourne need time to learn the offense, it still shows that Meyers is trending in the right direction. And if he continues to build off a strong spring, he should cement his status as a long-term fixture in Foxborough. Barring any setbacks, it seems like Meyers will go down as a success story for Belichick the GM.
However, the Harry situation doesn’t sound nearly as promising.
“The bust label is coming fast for the only Patriots receiver drafted in the first round under Belichick,” Callahan wrote. “Harry did not flash in any of the three OTA practices open to the media. He is, at best, the team’s No. 4 wideout now, with [Isaiah] Zuber closing fast, and another receiver, Gunner Olszewski, a lock to make the team because of his return ability.”
Jakobi Meyers’ development only reinforces how badly Belichick botched the N’Keal Harry pick
With Callahan reporting that Harry could be fighting for a roster spot, it’s abundantly clear that Belichick made a massive mistake back in 2019. And even if Meyers becomes the Patriots’ slot receiver for good, that doesn’t excuse the Harry selection.
Belichick had the chance to fix the position, and he had plenty of options on the table. Rather than going with A.J. Brown or DK Metcalf, he took Harry, who didn’t show nearly the same type of separation skills in college as either Ole Miss product. Plus, the Patriots passed over Deebo Samuel, who looks like a budding star out in San Francisco.
Harry may turn things around this summer. But based on how his Patriots career has gone thus far, he doesn’t seem like a strong bet to suddenly live up to expectations in his third year with the team.
Ultimately, Belichick is probably going to have to swallow his pride and admit he made a franchise-altering mistake by drafting Harry.
At this point, it’s Meyers who looks like he should have been a first-round pick.