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The NFL Scouting Combine has officially started in Indianapolis, meaning 2023 NFL Draft season is officially underway. And it also means another Mel Kiper Jr. mock draft if here. This time around, the ESPN draft guru had Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots that will make Pats fans pull their hair out. That’s because this Mel Kiper mock draft has the coach and de facto general manager doing the thing he’s worst at, taking a first-round wide receiver.

The latest Mel Kiper mock draft has Bill Belichick taking a WR 

The latest Mel Kiper Jr. mock draft has the worst-case scenario for the Patriots. It has Bill Belichick taking a WR in Round 1.

Belichick has a horrific track record of selecting wideouts, especially early in the draft (more on that below). And in the latest Patriots mock draft, Kiper has the coach taking a player with a wide range of NFL outcomes.

The player in question is Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Smith-Njigba is a polarizing prospect. Some think he’s a top-20 prospect and possibly the best receiver in the 2023 NFL Draft. Others believe he is a player of average athleticism who won’t be able to separate at the NFL level and are worried about his injury history.

The Buckeyes WR played just three games in 2022 with a lingering hamstring injury. He finished the year with five catches for 43 yards. However, in 2021, Smith-Njigba was incredible. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound pass-catcher led Ohio State in receptions (95) and receiving yards (1,606) on a team with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson on the roster.

To justify this pick at No. 14, Kiper writes that Patriots QB Mac Jones would “He’d benefit greatly from Smith-Njigba, a true No. 1 wideout who knows how to get open.” However, Kiper also says, “Assuming his medicals check out and his hamstring won’t be an issue, he’ll be my top-ranked wideout in this class. There’s no consensus within the league on this receiver class at the top.”

Bill Belichick and the Patriots definitely need a receiver this offseason, especially with Jakobi Meyers possibly leaving in free agency. However, drafting one on the first will make Patriots fans incredibly nervous, at best.

The Patriots’ terrible history of drafting WRs in the Belichick Era

Mel Kiper mock draft, Mel Kiper Jr., Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, 2023 NFL Draft
Bill Belichick | Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Since Bill Belichick became the Patriots head coach in 2000, the franchise has drafted 18 receivers.

The best pick, by far, was Kent State quarterback-turned-receiver Julian Edelman. The Patriots took him in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft, and he ended his career with 620 catches for 6,822 yards and 36 touchdowns.

Deion Branch in the second round and David Givens in the seventh round of the 2022 draft were both solid picks. However, outside of that, the Patriots’ WR history in the draft is horrific. Here are the rest of the wideouts Belichick has drafted, not counting special teams ace Matthew Slater, who’s played in 223 games but recorded just one catch for 46 yards in his career.

Bethel JohnsonTexas A&M200324539304504
P.K. SamFlorida State200451622000
Chad JacksonFlorida200623614131523
Brandon TateNorth Carolina200938318484323
Taylor PriceOhio201039043410
Jeremy EbertNorthwestern201272350000
Aaron DobsonMarshall201325924536984
Josh BoyceTCU201341021091210
Jeremy GallonMichigan201472440000
Malcom MitchellGeorgia2016411214324014
Devin LucienArizona State201672250000
Braxton BerriosMiami (FL)201862100000
N’Keal HarryArizona State201913233575984
Tre NixonCentral Florida202172420000
Tyquan ThorntonBaylor202225013222472
TOTALS    1712673,14024

As you can see, the WRs Bill Belichick has drafted for the Patriots have been terrible. The group’s total stats in 171 games is about what a Pro Bowl receiver would do in a season and a half.

That’s why the latest Mel Kiper mock draft should scare Patriots fans.


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