The New England Patriots enter the 2019 NFL Draft with a lot of needs and tons of draft capital. The Patriots have 12 picks in the upcoming draft, including six in the first three rounds. New England is actively looking for help at the wide receiver position and could turn to Stanford wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to help fill the need.
New England Patriots 2019 NFL Draft Targets: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has the body of a tight end with the hands, movement, and overall athleticism of a wide receiver. At 6’2”, 225 pounds, Arcega-Whiteside tests in the 93rd percentile for weight, 90th percentile for wingspan, and 84th percentile for arm length at the position. According to MockDraftable, Arcega-Whiteside is an 86.6% athletic match with current Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon. Arcega-Whiteside doesn’t have the same ridiculous upside as Gordon, but he clearly has the build to thrive as an outside receiver in the NFL.
Arcega-Whiteside’s large size combined with his superb body control makes him one of the draft’s most gifted red zone weapons. The son of two basketball players, Arcega-Whiteside can box out defenders and outleap everyone. He’s never truly covered, as his physical skill set allows him to high-point passes defenders simply cannot reach.
Arcega-Whiteside has the collegiate production to go along with his physical gifts. The South Carolina native finished his Senior season with 63 receptions for 1,059 yards and 14 touchdowns. The touchdowns were obviously the most impressive number and just show how good he can be in the red zone. If selected by New England, he’d immediately improve the Patriots’ red zone passing attack which just lost Rob Gronkowski. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared him to Eric Decker, and the similarity is evident on tape.
J.J Arcega-Whiteside is anything but a burner. The Stanford product rarely ran deep routes and wasn’t that successful when asked to stretch the field. While he has the size to haul in anything thrown his way, he doesn’t have the speed required to get open deep. Even with his great leaping ability, Arcega-Whiteside cannot gain the separation required to make deep passes a good idea.
For a player of his size, Arcega-Whiteside struggles to get off the line of scrimmage against press coverage. While he has the build to fight off anyone, he has a difficult time separating if a defender makes the first contact. This obviously disrupts his route and essentially takes him right out of too many plays.
That said, there are reasons to believe Arcega-Whiteside can improve in both respects at the professional level. For one, Arcega-Whiteside is faster than his game tape suggests. He didn’t partake in the NFL Combine, but the Stanford product reportedly ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. A 40 time like that is more than good enough for a player of his build. He’ll never be Brandin Cooks, but this speed should make opposing defenses respect his ability to stretch the field.
Additionally, Arcega-Whiteside has the necessary tools to get open against press coverage, he just needs to work on his fundamentals. The Stanford product’s play strength jumps off the tape, so it’s not like he’s physically incapable of overcoming larger cornerbacks. While it is concerning that he couldn’t figure it out in college, Arcega-Whiteside could improve his handwork with the guidance of the right wide receiver coach.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has the tools to be the big-bodied wide receiver New England hasn’t consistently had in a very long time. A star at Stanford, Arcega-Whiteside improved his collegiate production on an annual basis and his build and athleticism should translate to the NFL. Arcega-Whiteside has a fantastic pair of hands and has the ability to outleap any defender and haul in contested catches. Adding to this impressive skill set is his ridiculous catch radius, as the South Carolina native can haul in just about anything thrown in his direction.
Arcega-Whiteside isn’t a perfect prospect, as he still has a few glaring holes in his game. For one, he doesn’t get open deep. The Stanford product can do a lot of damage in the intermediate portions of the field and in the red zone, but he won’t take the top off the defense. Additionally, Arcega-Whiteside struggles to beat press coverage, which is a surprise considering his size and play strength.
For all intents and purposes, Arcega-Whiteside is the second-coming of Eric Decker or Plaxico Burress. While he probably won’t ever be a top-10 wide receiver, he should be a starter for a long time. Players like A.J. Brown and Deebo Samuel are better fits for New England, but Arcega-Whiteside would be an immediate boost to a red zone offense learning to live without Rob Gronkowski.
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