Bill Belichick has selected a wide receiver in the first round of the NFL Draft only once since taking over as head coach of the New England Patriots in 2000.
That pick hasn't turned out well.
The Patriots took Arizona State wideout N'Keal Harry with the 32nd overall selection in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Harry has battled injury throughout his first two pro seasons, and even when he's been on the field, the production has been lacking. He tallied 33 receptions for 303 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games during the 2020 campaign.
Curran: Should Harry be part of Pats' WR plans in 2021?
It's no secret the Patriots desperately need an upgrade at wide receiver before next season. The 2021 NFL Draft includes a strong wide receiver class, so it would make perfect sense for New England to target one or two of these players with their 10 picks.
Should they select one of the top wide receivers with their No. 15 pick in the first round? Pro Football Focus' latest 2021 mock draft published earlier this week has the Patriots taking Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle in Round 1.
Here's what PFF's Ben Linsey wrote about the Waddle selection for the Patriots:
"If there is one thing that the Patriots offense desperately needs, it is game-changing speed. Waddle provides that. It’s not just the speed that makes him so intriguing as a prospect, though. His biggest strength in the PFF Draft Guide is his 'twitch,' making him all the more difficult to get a hand on in the open field.
"We likely wouldn’t even be talking about Waddle at this portion of the draft if he hadn’t gotten injured last year. In the four games he and Devonta Smith played together this season before the national championship game, Waddle actually outgained Smith, 557 yards to 483, all while averaging 4.7 yards per route run. He’s the kind of dynamic receiving threat the Patriots have been without for the past several seasons."
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Waddle tallied 28 receptions for 591 yards with four touchdowns in five games for the Crimson Tide last season. He had ankle surgery in late October and didn't return to the field until the College Football Playoff National Championship Game win over Ohio State last month.
The Patriots have a lot of roster weaknesses to address in the draft. Those needs include wide receiver, left tackle, tight end, defensive tackle, cornerback and, of course, quarterback. The Patriots' skill position group on offense last season arguably was the worst in the league. It won't matter who's playing quarterback in 2021 if there's no top-tier playmaking talent around him.
So, while wide receiver might not be everyone's first choice for the Patriots' first-round pick, it's a position the team must address early in the draft.