Patriots

Buzz keeps building on Pats and Navy's Reynolds

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Buzz keeps building on Pats and Navy's Reynolds

The Patriots have gathered a ton of intel on Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, the man who set the NCAA record for touchdowns with 88.

Our guy Phil Perry wrote about the Pats-Reynolds contact points back in January, noting that former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was Reynolds’ coach at the East-West Shrine Game and that Troy Brown was the receivers coach and worked with Reynolds.

Mike Reiss added on Sunday that, not only did Bill Belichick meet with Reynolds during an awards event at Annapolis, but tight ends coach Brian Daboll worked with Reynolds on portions of the Patriots offense and special teams assistant Ray Ventrone has also been in contact.

The 5-11, 185-pound Reynolds is drawing easy comparisons to both Julian Edelman and converted Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who made the switch from QB to receiver with the Jags.

CBS’ Dane Brugler gave a review of Reynolds from the Shrine practices and alluded to Reynolds projection as a running back. Brugler pointed out ball security will have to improve for Reynolds who had 32 fumbles at Navy (high by any measure but mitigated a bit by the fact he ran the triple-option offense).

Watching Reynolds – who wasn’t invited to the Combine – he isn’t quite as fast or laterally quick as Edelman but is comparably strong in the lower body when running the ball.

Depending on which way the Patriots go with Danny Amendola, they could be in the slot market and Reynolds would be an interesting conversion project. There are more polished slots in the draft – Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard being one of them. And Chris Harper, while not a true slot, did have a nice camp and preseason and remains on the roster.

But the time spent on Reynolds is certainly noteworthy. And it’s a certainty the Patriots competitors have also taken note of New England’s interest. So it will be interesting to see if anyone else ratchets up their attention on Reynolds in an effort to keep him out of the Patriots hands. 

Names to know: Slot receiver options for Patriots if they wait for 2019 NFL draft

Names to know: Slot receiver options for Patriots if they wait for 2019 NFL draft

There's still time for the Patriots to sign a free-agent wideout. There's still time for them to acquire a pass-catcher via trade.

But what if they decide the best way to continue to build depth at the position around Julian Edelman is to dip into the draft?

The Patriots have of course had their share of cracks at rookie receivers, using 16 picks to take wideouts with Bill Belichick at the helm. Most recently, they've used draft choices on Braxton Berrios (sixth round, 2018), Malcolm Mitchell (fourth round, 2016), Devin Lucien (seventh round, 2016), Jeremy Gallon (seventh round, 2014), Aaron Dobson (second round, 2013) and Josh Boyce (fourth round, 2013). 

Dobson, Chad Jackson (2006), Bethel Johnson (2003) and Deion Branch (2002) are the second-round choices Belichick has been willing to spend at the position. The Patriots haven't taken a receiver in the first round since Terry Glenn in 1996. 

Is the situation at that spot such that Belichick would be willing to use the No. 32 pick in this year's draft on a receiver? If he wants to wait until the second round -- where the Patriots have picks No. 56 and No. 64 -- who may be there waiting for the call? 

WHAT ABOUT FREE AGENCY?

Here are a few of the names worth keeping an eye on come next month, as the Patriots have expressed interest in free-agent wideouts since the new league began but have not been able to land a dependable starting-caliber player in that time. With this list, we'll focus in on players who could potentially contribute inside since it appears that's something for which the Patriots -- given their interest in Adam Humphries and Golden Tate -- are looking.

DAY 1 OPTIONS

AJ Brown, Ole Miss 
Brown, according to some experts, could be in the mix as the top receiver taken in this year's class. But if it's his teammate DK Metcalf who goes first, and if true "X" options like N'Keal Harry go early, Brown could end up sliding. At 6-feet, 226 pounds, he'd certainly qualify as a big slot, but he can uncover with his size as well as his route-running. He's not afraid to mix it up as a blocker, which the Patriots would appreciate, and he's aggressive enough to run through contact with the ball in his hands. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compares him to JuJu Smith-Schuster. 

Parris Campbell, Ohio State 
Campbell isn't thought of as a first-round receiver by most, but his athletic traits could attract someone near the end of Day 1. He lit up the combine at 6-feet, 205 pounds, running a 4.31-second 40 (96th percentile among receivers, according to MockDraftable.com), jumping 135 inches in the broad jump (98th percentile) and clocking a 4.03-second 20-yard shuttle (90th percentile). He may project more as a "Z" than a true slot since he's shown an ability to burn off the corner as a jet-sweep specialist. He's also a threat in the screen game, where he can use his speed to slice through defenses. He may not be the draft's most polished route-runner, but he has physical gifts that can't be taught. On special teams, he could fill a role for the Patriots both as their kick and punt returner. 

Deebo Samuel, South Carolina 
Samuel is another inside receiver who's built to withstand the punishment pass-catchers absorb over the middle of the field (5-11, 214 pounds) but has the athleticism (4.48-second 40) to break games open. He's an explosive returner (four kicks brought back for touchdowns) and has produced against some of the best competition college football has to offer. He put up 10 catches for 210 yards and three scores against Clemson last season. 

DAY 2 OPTIONS

Mecole Hardman, Georgia 
The Patriots love to draft Bulldogs, and there are a couple of receivers from Georgia in this year's class who may catch their eye. Riley Ridley is more of an outside threat who'll use his body to shield defenders and pluck passes out of the air with dependable hands. Hardman, meanwhile, is an undersized burner. The 5-10, 187-pounder ran a 4.33-second 40 at the combine and has drawn comparisons to Seattle's Tyler Lockett (51 percent of snaps in the slot for the Seahawks in 2018). Hardman has only spent two seasons as a receiver so he won't be a short-to-intermediate route-running whiz. But maybe with some coaching, and if he gets a good reference from coach Kirby Smart, he'll provide the Patriots with an explosive presence from the slot. He might be available to the Patriots in the third round if they wait to pounce at the position.

Andy Isabella, UMass 
We dove deep into Isabella's skill set here, but he's worth mentioning again as a potential option. The fact that he was a down-the-field player at UMass (4.31-second 40) who's projected as a slot -- he's admitted he's working on interior routes leading up to the draft -- means he could have some versatility within offensive formations. That's something the Patriots typically like to see. Isabella could be dangerous as an end-around option, and he has solid short-area quickness (4.15-second 20-yard shuttle) to redirect in the middle of the field for Tom Brady.

WHAT ABOUT A TRADE?

Terry McClaurin, Ohio State
The Patriots haven't plucked players from the Urban Meyer tree in some time, but McClaurin would make sense as the next. He profiles as one of the best all-around athletes in the class at the position (4.35-second 40, 37.5-inch vertical), and his top MockDraftable.com comparisons include Chad Jackson, Bethel Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson. McLaurin got some experience working in the slot at Ohio State and showed reliable hands. He's also a potential core special-teamer who has the size, speed and competitiveness to excel on fourth down.

DAY 3 OPTIONS

Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
At 5-foot-7, 173 pounds, Dortch isn't going to give the Patriots some of the inside-out versatility that they like. He worked out of the slot almost exclusively at Wake Forest. And his frame won't make him an imposing player in the run game as a blocker. But he's tough. He suffered a punctured small intestine while scoring against Louisville, stayed in the game, scored twice more, and then later that day had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. He returned two punts for scores last year and averaged 11.0 yards per return with one muff.

Hunter Renfrow, Clemson
Renfrow has been projected as a Patriots fit since he was working the short-to-intermediate area for Clemson in the College Football Playoffs years ago. Surprise, surprise: He tested as a quick change-of-direction target at the combine (6.8-second three-cone, 4.19-second 20-yard shuttle) who could be the next Danny Amendola as a slightly-built slot. If the Patriots want to wait until Day 3 to nab a slot option with experience performing under pressure, Renfrow could be their guy.

Cody Thompson, Toledo 
We had Thompson going off to the Patriots in a seven-round mock draft earlier this offseason. Here's what we said at the time: "Quarterback-turned-receiver. MAC product. Possesses special teams value. Seventh-round pick. Sound familiar? Thompson isn't going to be the next Julian Edelman, but he does have some intriguing qualities to work with. Because he doesn't have breakaway speed (4.57 40), he might be a slot receiver even though his frame (6-1, 205) makes him look like an "X." Furthering his case for the slot would be his agility numbers -- 6.87 three-cone, 4.03 short shuttle -- and his willingness to block. Thompson has experience as a returner and has blocked three punts in his college career, meaning there might be a spot for him on the roster even if he doesn't contribute offensively."

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Trent Brown's agent reveals Patriots wanted to keep left tackle before he joined Raiders

Trent Brown's agent reveals Patriots wanted to keep left tackle before he joined Raiders

Trent Brown left the New England Patriots to sign the richest offensive lineman contract in NFL history with the Oakland Raiders, but before that, the defending Super Bowl champs did have interest in the left tackle returning to Foxboro.

Brown's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, let that be known in a recent story by Peter King on Pro Football Talk.

You saw the pictures, I assume, of Bill Belichick and girlfriend Linda Holliday in Barbados on the weekend before free-agency began. They have phones there, and Belichick was using them. “Don’t let those photos fool you,” Rosenhaus the agent told me Sunday. “We talked one morning at 4:30 about Trent Brown. They wanted to keep him.”

Brown played well for the Patriots last season, particularly in the playoffs when the offensive line as a whole gave up just one sack of quarterback Tom Brady through three playoff games. New England acquired him in a trade last April with the San Francisco 49ers.

Keeping Brown would've been a good situation for the Pats given his impressive talent and the fact he's still just 25 years old. However, it's hard to imagine the Patriots were in the same financial ballpark as the Raiders when it came to contract offers.

We've seen the Patriots let star players walk in free agency numerous times in the Bill Belichick era, and the team usually finds a player or two capable of filling the gap.

Brown, in fact, was a replacement for departed left tackle Nate Solder, who signed with the New York Giants in free agency before last season. The next man up to replace Brown likely is Isaiah Wynn, a 2018 first-round draft pick who missed all of his rookie season because of a torn Achilles.

The Patriots still need more depth at the offensive tackle position, even if Wynn is fully healthy entering training camp, so don't be surprised if they sign a veteran or look to address the position in the 2019 NFL Draft next month.

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