The New England Patriots 2022 NFL Draft class has been the target of tons of criticism. It’s hard to pinpoint which of the team’s top two picks has received the most critiques, but one talent evaluator likened the frame of second-round selection Tyquan Thornton to a “lamp post.”
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer shouted out Thornton’s blazing speed, but also shared his concern for the Patriots rookie’s slight build.
“Thornton, an absolute burner who’s built like a lamp post, could provide a downfield element to the Patriots’ offense, maybe to eventually replace Nelson Agholor (who’s in a contract year),” Breer wrote.
Can Tyquan Thornton Make the Patriots Look Like Geniuses?
Thornton won’t need to put up rookie-of-the-year numbers to have a greater impact than Agholor had in his first season with the Patriots. After being signed to a 2-year, $22 million deal, Agholor was one of the more disappointing free-agent signings of 2021.
Agholor’s 38 receptions were the second-lowest of his NFL career. He also had just 373 yards and 3 TDs. In many ways, Agholor’s failure to make an impact is what paved the way for the Patriots to select a burner like Thornton.
Still, Breer suggests other scouts around the league didn’t have Thornton rated nearly as high as the Patriots selected him.
“But one area scout assigned to Baylor told me he had a fifth-round grade on Thornton,” Breer wrote. “Few had more than a fourth-round grade on him. He went in the second round.”
Patriots’ Past Failures Made Room For Thornton
It can be argued the Patriots picked Thornton and their first-round selection Cole Strange, a guard out of UT Chattanooga, too early, but none of that will matter if the players pan out.
The Patriots selected N’Keal Harry with the 32nd overall pick in 2019. Harry looked like a stud at Arizona State. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons including an 82-reception, 1,142-yard, 8-TD performance as a sophomore.
Several teams believed Harry had a chance to be an excellent pro. In three seasons in the NFL, Harry hasn’t come close to what he did in college. In fact, his career totals are lower than any of his single seasons as a Sun Devil.
Like Agholor, Harry’s failure to pan out for the Patriots made selecting a player like Thornton necessary. Even more, the Patriots’ acquisition of DeVante Parker in a trade with the Miami Dolphins will likely spell the end of the line for Harry in New England.
A Glass Half-Full Look at the Patriots WR Group
The acquisition of Parker and the selection of Thornton has added some talent and athleticism to the Patriots’ WR group. Still, on paper, they aren’t going to scare any defenses just yet.
It’s easy to find holes in what the Patriots have put together in the way of passing weapons for Mac Jones.
Parker is talented, but he’s missed 9 games over the past two seasons, and he has just one 1,000-yard season in his career. Jakobi Meyers has been the fastest turtle for the last two seasons, but still seems more like a third receiver on a good team. Kendrick Bourne is a spark plug, but one has to wonder how many touches he gets on a potent offense.
Thornton’s frame is so thin, that many will wonder if he can stay healthy for an entire NFL season. Each of these concerns would be justifiable. However, it’s also not out of the realm of possibility Parker has an outstanding season as he tries to position himself for a piece of the life-changing money being paid to wide receivers in this era.
Meyers just keeps producing and improving. The undrafted free agent went from 26 receptions and 359 yards as a rookie to 59 for 729 in his second season to 83 for 866 and 2 TDs in 2021. Could he be on the cusp of his first 1,000-yard season? Even if he repeats his production from last year, that’s a win on a team with more weapons.
Bourne enjoyed a breakout season with 55 receptions for 800 yards and 5 TDS. His infectious energy and toughness should continue to be an asset, and what if Thornton is actually special?
What if he takes the top off of the defense and opens up the short passing game and rushing attack even more? The reality will likely be somewhere in the middle.
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