The New England Patriots had one of the worst skill position groups on offense of any team in the NFL during the 2020 season.
It's one of the reasons why the Patriots ranked near the bottom of the league in so many passing categories. In fairness, poor quarterback play from Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham also contributed to those struggles. But it was very obvious that New England lacked high-end talent and the required amount of depth to have an offense capable of scoring enough points to win games consistently.
Finding playmakers at wide receiver must be a priority for the Patriots in the offseason. They have around $62 million -- the third-most of any team, per OverTheCap -- to use in free agency. Another area where they can find wideout help is in the 2021 NFL Draft, in which the Pats are expected to have 10 total picks, including compensatory selections.
Pro Football Focus released its latest 2021 NFL Mock Draft earlier this week, and at No. 15 the Patriots selected Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman.
Here is PFF writer Anthony Treash's explanation for the Patriots picking Bateman in the first round:
"We don't know who will be leading the Pats’ offense next season, but that QB is obviously going to need some new receiving weapons. Rashod Bateman certainly fits the bill. The Minnesota product is another top-notch route-runner with an elite release package. He played predominantly on the outside in 2019 before kicking inside into the slot for most of the shortened 2020 season, but he remained productive regardless of position. Bateman ranked seventh in the FBS in yards per route run in 2019 (3.48) and finished sixth in 2020 (3.45). The Minnesota receiver joined DeVonta Smith as the only receiver to generate more than 3.4 yards per route in each of the last two seasons."
Bateman is listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. He tallied 36 receptions for 472 yards and two touchdowns in 2020 as Minnesota played only five games due to the COVID-19 pandemic shortening the Big Ten season. Bateman posted 60 receptions for 1,219 and 11 touchdowns -- all career highs -- in 13 games during the 2019 campaign.
The Patriots have a lot of roster needs to consider upgrading with the No. 15 pick in the first round. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has selected a wide receiver in Round 1 only once since joining New England in 2000, and it was N'Keal Harry in 2019. The Harry pick hasn't worked out so far, but that doesn't mean the Patriots should shy away from taking another wide receiver early if the right player is there.