2019 NFL Draft

Patriots draft prospects tracker: Notable players to meet with New England

Patriots draft prospects tracker: Notable players to meet with New England

Unlike in past years, the NFL Draft could help the New England Patriots address some serious needs.

The Patriots enter the 2019 NFL Draft armed with 12 total picks, more than any team in the league. With holes to fill wide receiver, tight end and defensive end (among others) and a potential quarterback of the future to target, head coach Bill Belichick and Co. actually might use a lot of those picks.

Exactly what the Patriots have up their sleeve when the draft kicks off April 25 is anyone's guess. But we can get a feel for their strategy by observing which prospects the team holds individual meetings with in the days and weeks leading up to the draft.

Below is a list of notable NFL draft prospects (organized by position) who have already met with or plan to meet with New England this offseason, as confirmed by reports or the prospects themselves:

QUARTERBACK
Will Grier, West Virginia
Daniel Jones, Duke
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

WIDE RECEIVER
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
David Sills, West Virginia
Gary Jennings, West Virginia
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Riley Ridley, Georgia
Andy Isabella, UMass
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
Hunter Renfrow, Clemson

N'Keal Harry, Arizona State
Miles Boykin, Notre Dame

Nsimba Webster, Eastern Washington
Mecole Hardman, Georgia
Jalen Hurd, Baylor

TIGHT END
Noah Fant, Iowa
Irv Smith Jr., Alabama

Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
Kaden Smith, Stanford
Isaac Nauta, Georgia

OFFENSIVE LINE
OT Kaleb McGary

SAFETY
Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State

CORNERBACK
Joejuan Williams, Vanderbilt

LINEBACKER
Blake Cashman, Minnesota

DEFENSIVE LINE
DE Jalen Jelks, Oregon
DE Zach Allen, Boston College
DT Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
DT Kingsley Keke

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Patriots have never spent a first-round pick on a receiver during Bill Belichick's tenure

Patriots have never spent a first-round pick on a receiver during Bill Belichick's tenure

The New England Patriots have a reputation for having trouble draft receivers. That's well-earned, to an extent. Since 2009, the Patriots have only drafted one receiver that has panned out long-term, Julian Edelman. Other picks have either failed to live up to expectations or haven't worked out at the NFL level.

However, there is a surprising stat about the Patriots and drafting receivers that may help to explains why so few of the team's draft picks at the position have panned out.

According to NFL Research, in 19 drafts with the Patriots, Bill Belichick has never selected a receiver in the first round. And of the 1,000-yard receivers that Belichick has had during his tenure, they have come only via late-round picks or by trades.

Of course, the caveat here is that Brandin Cooks was acquired in exchange for a first-round pick, so technically speaking, that is using a first-round pick on a receiver. Still, Cooks was a well-established veteran player, so trading a first-round pick for that type of a player is different than drafting an unknown commodity.

That said, it's clear that the Patriots' draft strategy doesn't value receivers that heavily. They tend to settle on mid-to-late-round guys to develop in hopes of making them quality playmakers. They either do that or acquire proven veterans. This makes sense given how hard it is to land quality receivers in the draft.

It will be interesting to see if the Patriots change their draft strategy this year, given their needs for offensive weaponry. They have been scouting receivers and tight ends heavily ahead of the draft, so perhaps they will consider breaking their trend and targeting a new player for Tom Brady to throw to.

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NFL Rumors: Jalen Hurd, Baylor WR and converted RB, met with Patriots

NFL Rumors: Jalen Hurd, Baylor WR and converted RB, met with Patriots

Gillette Stadium has been a revolving door for NFL Draft prospects this week, and it appears many share a common trait.

The New England Patriots hosted another skill player Wednesday in Baylor wide receiver prospect Jalen Hurd, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Thursday.

The Patriots also brought in tight end Noah Fant and wide receivers A.J. Brown and Deebo Samuel on Thursday after meeting with quarterback prospects Will Grier and Daniel Jones on Wednesday, per various reports. They even mixed in some current NFL players, bringing running back T.J. Yeldon and Demaryius Thomas in for free-agent visits Wednesday.

Hurd is an interesting prospect: The 23-year-old began his college career as a running back at Tennessee from 2014 to 2016 but transferred to Baylor in 2017 because he wanted to transition to wide receiver. After sitting out the 2017 season, he thrived in his new role at Baylor, tallying 946 receiving yards on 69 catches with a total of seven touchdowns (four receiving, three rushing).

Hurd still is an unfinished wide receiver prospect and likely won't come off the 2019 NFL Draft board until Day 3, but at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds and an unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.47 seconds, he's an exceptional athlete with upside as a goal line or deep threat. 

NFL Network's Lance Zierlein has converted quarterback Terrelle Pryor listed as Hurd's NFL comparison.

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