Patriots

How Devin McCourty is managing Patriots' expectations after Tom Brady's exit

How Devin McCourty is managing Patriots' expectations after Tom Brady's exit

Pop quiz: When is the last time you were satisfied with a New England Patriots season that didn't end with a Super Bowl title?

Championships have been the standard in New England for the past two decades, but that will change in 2020 with Tom Brady taking his talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

... Right?

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Veteran safety Devin McCourty was the first Patriots player to address the media since Brady's departure Wednesday and tried to walk a fine line when asked about expectations for this year's squad.

"I don’t think you ever come into a season and talk, 'Super Bowl, Super Bowl,' " McCourty told reporters in a conference call. "It's about improving and winning games along the way. I think that will stay the same."

While the Patriots may not "talk" Super Bowl, playing in February always was the implicit goal with Brady around. And McCourty is well aware that fans don't think New England has a shot without TB12.

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"I've seen people tweeting me like, ‘Enjoy what you guys had. It’s over. You guys won’t win a game,' McCourty said. "I think that's natural, though. I think if I was a fan and ... I watched a guy for a long time and he left and he was so great, I would say that team would be terrible, too."

Whether the Patriots are actually competitive in 2020 -- one sportsbook has their win total set at nine -- may depend on how they fill Brady's leadership void.

But McCourty pushed back on the notion that Brady was the team's sole motivator.

"I know everyone is like, ‘What's going to happen? Everything is brand new.’ I don’t really see it like that," McCourty said. "I see it continuing what we’ve been doing and guys assuming the same leadership roles when you look at myself, (Matthew) Slater, Jules (Julian Edelman), (Patrick) Chung. All those guys have been there 10-plus years, so we just have to continue to do what we’ve been doing."

Slater, McCourty and Edelman are New England's three longest-tenured players with Brady and Stephen Gostkowski gone. None are Brady, obviously, but McCourty is hopeful they can continue the "Patriot Way" -- which should translate into continued success.

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Top 10 wide receivers in elite class

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Top 10 wide receivers in elite class

This is a great year to need a wide receiver in the NFL Draft.

The 2020 class of wideouts has been deemed historically awesome by many draft experts, with as many as four or five of these players expected to be selected in the first round.

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A couple of these wide receivers played in the SEC, most notably the Alabama duo of Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Both Crimson Tide stars are projected to land in the top 15. 

Whether you're looking for size, speed, contested catch ability or any other skill, you'll be able to find it in this wide receiver class.

Let's take a look at the top 10 wide receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft.

1. CeeDee Lamb

College: Oklahoma
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 62 receptions, 1,327 yards, 14 touchdowns

Lamb was the best wideout in the nation last season. He averaged an impressive 21.4 yards per catch in 2019, and he also tallied 25 touchdown receptions over the last two seasons. Lamb is a very reliable target, evidenced by his zero drops at Oklahoma on balls thrown 20 yards or more down field. He has great hands and the ability to make tough, contested catches. He's the safest bet to succeed of all the wide receivers in this class.

Projected Round: First

2. Jerry Jeudy

College: Alabama
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 77 receptions, 1,163 yards, 10 touchdowns

Alabama has produced some top-tier NFL wide receivers in the Nick Saban era, including Julio Jones and Amari Cooper. Jerry Jeudy could be next.

Jeudy is the most complete wideout in this class and the best route runner. He has all the skills needed to be a No. 1 wide receiver for a long time. Jeudy also thrived in important games. In four career bowl/CFP matchups, he averaged 109 yards with a total of three touchdowns, including an incredible performance in last season's Citrus Bowl win over Michigan when he tallied six receptions for 204 yards and a touchdown.

Projected Round: First

3. Henry Ruggs III

College: Alabama
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 40 receptions, 746 yards, 7 touchdowns

Ruggs' best talent is his speed. Whether he's outrunning a defensive back down field, or catching a screen pass and beating everyone to the end zone, it's awfully tough to catch the Crimson Tide star. He had at least one reception of 25-plus yards in nine of the 12 games he played in 2019. Ruggs' big-play ability should make him a popular player on teams' draft boards in Round 1.

Projected Round: First

4. Justin Jefferson

College: LSU
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 111 receptions, 1,540 yards, 18 touchdowns

Jefferson had an incredible 2019 season as LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow's top target. He tied for the Division I lead in receptions and ranked second in touchdown catches. He also caught an astounding 92.3 percent of his contested targets, highlighting his ability to fight over defensive backs and make tough receptions. Jefferson stepped up when the bright lights were shining, too. He caught 30 passes for 448 yards and five touchdowns in the SEC Championship Game and two College Football Playoff games combined last season. His blocking skills in the run game are solid as well, making him a well-rounded and pro-ready wideout. 

Projected Round: First

5. Tee Higgins

College: Clemson
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 59 receptions, 1,167 yards, 13 touchdowns

Higgins was Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence's most reliable wideout in 2019, and it's easy to understand why when you look at his impressive talent and size (6-foot-4 and 215 pounds). Higgins tied the school record for career touchdown receptions with 27 and averaged a career-high 19.3 yards per reception last year. He's a tremendous possession receiver, and also quite versatile. He can play all over the field, whether that's outside, in the slot, lining up in the backfield or somewhere else. He'll give NFL coaches a lot of options.

Projected Round: First

6. Denzel Mims

College: Baylor
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 66 receptions, 1,020 yards, 12 touchdowns

Mims, at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, excelled as a slot receiver for Baylor and should be able to fill that role at a high level in the NFL. His speed also is fantastic, evidenced by his 4.30 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. Mims was nearly unstoppable in 1-on-1 drills during Senior Bowl practices and his draft stock has risen as a result. He's definitely a player who could be drafted a lot higher than experts are projecting right now (April 9).

Projected Round: Late First, Early Second

7. Brandon Aiyuk

College: Arizona State
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 65 receptions, 1,192 yards, 8 touchdowns

Aiyuk has great speed, and it helped him rack up a ton of yards after the catch last season. He also has great concentration on balls thrown deep downfield. In fact, Aiyuk had zero drops in his college career when he was targeted 20-plus yards down field. His improvement as a sophomore was quite encouraging as well. He nearly doubled his receptions in 2019 compared to his freshman season, while more than doubling his receiving yards and touchdowns. Don't be surprised if Aiyuk rapidly moves up draft boards and becomes a lock to be a first-round pick over the next few weeks.

Projected Round: Late First, Early Second

8. Laviska Shenault Jr.

College: Colorado
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 56 receptions, 764 yards, 4 touchdowns

Versatility is one of Shenault Jr.'s best attributes. He saw snaps all over the field at Colorado, including on the outside and in the slot. Shenault also has all the physical tools needed to win 1-on-1 matchups down field. The main concern with Shenault is his durability. He battled through multiple injuries throughout his college career, but if healthy, he's one of the draft's most exciting pass-catching talents.

Projected Round: Second

9. Jalen Reagor

College: TCU
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 43 receptions, 611 yards, 5 touchdowns

Reagor is a very good route runner with the quickness and strength to create separation. The TCU star's 2019 stats look disappointing when you compare them with his breakout 2018 campaign, but the real issue for Reagor was his quarterback. Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan completed only 53.4 percent of his passes last season. He also threw 10 interceptions over TCU's final six games, which was the toughest part of the team's schedule and the only stretch where it played any top 25 teams. 

Reagor probably would be a slam-dunk first-round pick if he had a competent QB throwing him the ball last season. 

Projected Round: Second

10. KJ Hamler

College: Penn State
Class: Redshirt sophomore
2019 stats: 56 receptions, 904 yards, 8 touchdowns

Hamler is another one of the wideouts in this class with blazing speed, making him a real threat to score anytime he touches the ball. He had at least one catch of 30-plus yards in seven of the 12 games he played in 2019. The best play of Hamler's college career came against an elite Ohio State defense in 2018 when he caught a pass at his own 15-yard line and outran every Buckeyes player for a 93-yard touchdown. Hamler also was a really good kick and punt returner for Penn State. He averaged 21.3 yards on 44 career kick returns, while also tallying 37 career punt returns.

Projected Round: Second

  • 2020 Draft Rankings: QB | RB

Terry Bradshaw doesn't think Tom Brady is the 'GOAT,' cites 3 better QBs

Terry Bradshaw doesn't think Tom Brady is the 'GOAT,' cites 3 better QBs

Well, we can't say we're surprised with Terry Bradshaw's latest comments regarding former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The Pittsburgh Steelers legend doesn't believe Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, which is fine, but he cited three surprising QBs who he believes are better... and, well, see for yourself. 

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"I don't think he's the greatest quarterback of all-time," Bradshaw said during an interview with 93.7 The Fan, as transcribed by Bryan DeArdo of CBS Sports. "It's hard to say. He may be the best quarterback we've had in the last 30 years. Is he better than [Roger] Staubach? No. Is he better than Dan Fouts? No. Dan Marino? No. I'm talking talent-wise when you're putting all of it together. 

"Does he have more Super Bowls than anybody? Yes. Therefore, he's the best. I absolutely have no problem saying it. If you've got the most Super Bowls, you can be in there, but I don't put anybody as the greatest of all-time. Is he better than Montana? Not in my opinion. Is he better than Drew Brees? Yeah, maybe."

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The six-time Super Bowl champion has received plenty of media coverage and attention since leaving the Patriots after 20 years and Bradshaw continued to say that he's sick of it, according to DeArdo.

This isn't the first time Bradshaw has taken a shot at Brady either. The NFL on FOX analyst couldn't believe Brady left New England high and dry last month to go to the Buccaneers saying "I don’t know what the hell Tom’s doing."

Obviously the debate about who the "GOAT" is will never end, but when we're discussing the career that Brady has had, he's definitely up there with the likes of Marino, Staubach and Montana.