High-End Talent Is What the New England Patriots Need

Patriots Talent
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Each season Pro Football Focus ranks the top 101 players in the league, and there are five New England Patriots on the list. Unfortunately, three out of four of their top-ranked players are interior linemen; Shaq Mason 35th, David Andrews 75th, and Michael Onwenu at 84th. The only skill-position players the Patriots have on the list are J.C. Jackson at 71st and Adrian Phillips at 90th. It is nice to have quality linemen, but the Patriots need game-changing, high-end talent at skill positions.

During the NFL playoffs this year, there is one thing all the teams had in common; they all had high-end talent at skill positions. The only exception was the Patriots, and they got blown out.

It is impressive that they made the playoffs without any game-changing players at the skill positions. That says a lot about the quarterback and coaching. Also, it is a good sign that the team is heading in the right direction. However, a game-changing receiver is what this team needs to contend for Super Bowls.

Analytics show that a team’s success is determined by how well they pass the ball and defend the pass. The final four teams all had superstars at skill positions on their roster, and it is that way almost every year. They all had playmakers that other teams had to game-plan to stop.

New England did finish 14th in passing yards with a rookie quarterback and without star receivers. However, Super Bowl winners are often in the top 5 and top 10 at worst. The Patriots nearly have the formula, but they need a top passing game. To do that, they need high-end talent at wide receiver.

How the New England Patriots Can Add High-End Talent In the Offseason

Replace N’Keal Harry With a High-End Wide Receiver

Bill Belichick has been excellent in the past at knowing when to cut his losses. So, it would be surprising to see wide receiver N’Keal Harry on the roster next season. The 24-year-old former first-round pick has been one of Belichick’s biggest busts. It is time to trade him or release him and replace him with high-end talent that is a threat to score on every play.

Injuries have plagued Harry; he only played in 33 out of 49 games. After three seasons, Harry has 57 catches for 598 yards with four touchdowns. He played in 12 games this season and had just 22 targets. The Patriots needed a lot more production than that from a first-round pick.

Belichick has acknowledged the need for a star receiver by going after Harry in the first round of 2019. Just because he chose the wrong player does not mean he should give up on addressing the need. The ideal way to get a top receiver would be to land one in the draft. It is time to dip back in the pool and get the receiver they believed Harry would be.

Another way to replace Harry is through free agency. Several star receivers are available, like, Davante Adams, Chris Godwin, and Allen Robinson. Adams may be the most talented receiver in the league, but he will be at the top of the market if he does leave Green Bay. It would be out of character for the Patriots to pursue a player like that, but he is the quintessential example of the high-end player the Patriots need.

It is hard to tell the story of Harry without mentioning the 2019 NFL Draft. He was the 32nd overall pick, and the next receiver picked was Deebo Samuel. Soon after came A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Terry Mclaurin, and Dionte Johnson, to name a few. It was hard to miss on a star receiver in that draft, but Belichick did, unfortunately. Now it is time to correct this mistake and get the production the Patriots have been missing.

The J.C. Jackson Decision

New England’s passing defense was outstanding for most of the season until they were not. They lost four of their last five and got shredded in the passing game. However, they finished the regular season as number one in points allowed and second in passes defended.

Even if we assume that they are the pass defense we saw most of the year, it all happened with JC Jackson, a free agent. The Patriots will need to keep Jackson or replace his production to contend for a Super Bowl.

It will be hard to replace the production of Jackson; he led the league in passes defended this season, with 23 and had a career-high of 44 solo tackles and 58 total. Over the past two seasons, he has made 17 interceptions.

Jackson has the Patriots in a challenging situation. The 26-year-old has played well and is poised to make a lot of money in free agency. The Patriots will have to offer him a massive contract, use the franchise tag, or let him walk.

The franchise tag will not be cheap for a top corner who has not missed a game since 2018. It will cost over $17-million for one year, Jackson will likely be unhappy, and he will be a free agent again after the season. The best option would be to sign him to a multi-year deal, but that does not seem likely. Belichick went nuts in 2021’s offseason, and the team only has just under $4.9 million in cap space as of this posting.

A Strong Middle-Class Approach

It is somewhat by design that the Patriots have no high-end talent on the roster. They do not typically pay for stars and prefer a strong middle-class approach.

However, they did not intend to draft poorly for the five years prior. They also had to forfeit a 2021 third-round pick. That is mainly why they are missing star players.

The Patriots need to add high-end talent at skill positions if the goal is to win the Super Bowl. It is the formula. Teams with high-end talent at those positions compete for Super Bowls every year. It will continue to happen with the modern passing game. A strong middle class is great for the economy but not for an entire NFL roster.

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