The New England Patriots are getting a surprising performance from Kristian Wilkerson, a second-year, undrafted free agent WR who is making a push to secure a roster spot.
Wilkerson has been one of the standouts so far in training camp with a collection of high-difficulty catches and wins in one-on-one drills.
He has drawn the interest of several beat writers following the Patriots, and some of them give him at least an outside shot at making the roster.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss Calls Wilkerson a Sleeper to Make the Roster
Few have more of a bird’s eye view of the Patriots’ training camp escapades than ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
Here’s what he wrote about Wilkerson’s impact and chances to make the team.
Mark down the name Kristian Wilkerson as a player who probably wasn’t on many initial Patriots roster projections but who has put himself in good position to stick after spending last season on the practice squad. The 6-foot-1, 201-pound wide receiver initially entered the NFL in 2020 with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent out of Southeast Missouri State. Receivers coach Mick Lombardi mentioned him last week, unsolicited, and Wilkerson has been doing one-on-one work with special teams captain Matthew Slater at practice.
It is clear, Wilkerson is trying to secure a job either as a wide receiver or as a special teamer. Considering the career Slater has carved for himself in a similar role, he couldn’t have a better mentor.
What Wilkerson possesses that Slater does not is the ability to win in jump-ball situations and a bit more natural athleticism. Wilkerson seems capable of making plays downfield, and breaking some tackles if given the opportunity. We’ll see if he gets it.
Another young wide receiver, whom many had written off might be reclaiming a spot some believe he’d lost.
N’Keal Harry is Charging Hard For a Roster Spot
By many accounts, no Patriots player has had a better training camp that the much-maligned N’Keal Harry. The third-year pro asked to be traded just before the start of training camp.
Rather than sitting out or giving a poor effort with a team for which he’s asked to move away from, Harry has used the opportunity to show coaches and anyone else who’s watching why he deserves more opportunities.
Harry has been very productive. He’s been at his best in the one-on-one battles against Patriots cornerbacks, and has done well in basically all practice situations. I think I have him for one drop. He’s been good all-around. And, now, he’s starting to stack success on a daily basis, which could not be said earlier in his career.
Patriots coaches have taken notice, especially receivers coach Mick Lombardi who mentioned the trade request, indirectly, but expressed his love and admiration for the 24-year-old receiver. Lombardi told the media:
I know what was reported, and all that stuff, but I just know N’Keal is a guy that I’ve grown to really admire and love. He’s a player on our team and in our room and I think really highly of N’Keal for how he comes in here and works. I have a great relationship with N’Keal. We are business first. He comes in here and works extremely hard, and I appreciate that. He’s very hard working.
Harry’s strong play could directly affect Wilkerson’s chances to make the team as spots at receiver could be sparse. Still, it’s good to see competition at receiver between two players who are capable of making plays.
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