There’s a growing consensus the New England Patriots got two steals late in the 2023 NFL draft, but which of the wide receivers they selected in the sixth round compares favorably to Stefon Diggs?
The three-time Pro Bowler has routinely torched the Pats as a member of the Buffalo Bills, but NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell sees shades of Diggs in Kayshon Boutte’s game. Cosell explained as much during an appearance on the Inside the Birds podcast: “This guy has certain traits, if he can play to those traits all the time, I thought there’s a Stefon Diggs comparison to be made.”
While he stressed he was comparing Boutte to where Diggs was when the latter was drafted 146th overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2015, this isn’t the only time Cosell has praised Boutte.
He also told the Ross Tucker Football Podcast Boutte “could fit verywell in the context of this (Patriots) offense, because he works extremely well in the short to short-to-intermediate areas.”
Cosell’s confidence in Boutte echoes similar sentiments held about fellow sixth-round pick Demario Douglas. The former Liberty standout is also viewed as a potential steal who can have a transformative impact on the Pats’ offense.
Changing what has been a pedestrian passing game will demand more big plays through the air, the kind of gains Boutte produced at times for LSU.
6th-Rounder Can Be Field-Stretcher Patriots Lack
A vertical threat is something the Patriots are still missing, so there’s an obvious role for 187th pick Boutte to make his own. The 21-year-old averaged 13.6 yards per catch during three years with the Tigers.
At his best, Boutte proved capable of dominating any defense, including national champion Georgia. Boutte amassed 107 yards on six catches against the Bulldogs including this touchdown to mark his final game in collegiate football.
Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien will love how quick Boutte was out of his break, as well as how intelligently he exploited space underneath. Then there was his game-breaking speed after the catch.
Turning short passes into long gains has been the foundation of New England’s offense for more than two decades. Boutte fits the program as part of an unheralded group of wideouts with the talent to perform above expectations this season.
Patriots Receivers Can Be Better Than Expected
Boutte’s chances of matching what Diggs achieved as a fifth-rounder turned All-Pro will depend on his ability to emerge atop a crowded depth chart. Belichick has made sure O’Brien and quarterback Mac Jones have plenty of targets to work with after Boutte and Douglas were added alongside free agents JuJu Smith-Schuster and tight end Mike Gesicki.
The new faces join a group already containing DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, Hunter Henry and Kendrick Bourne. Parker has a 1,202-yard season on his CV, while last year’s second-round pick Thornton flashed potential, like when he caught his first regular-season touchdown against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6.
This group is better than advertised, but there’s no obvious go-to receiver like Diggs. The latter has burned the Patriots for 618 yards, 45 catches and six touchdowns in seven games, per StatMuse, with all but five of those catches and 49 of those yards coming after Diggs moved to the AFC East in 2020.
Having a marquee, No. 1 pass-catcher on the outside has helped the Bills own the division in recent years. If Boutte can defy expectations and follow the same career trajectory as Diggs, a Patriots’ team already owning a stout defense and solid running game will return to the playoff mix.