Could Patriots get their top wide receiver after first round?


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Mainstream thinking among analysts and draft experts has been that four wide receivers - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, Zay Flowers and Quentin Johnston - are likely to be taken in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft. And if the Patriots, who have met with all four prospects, have their eyes set on one, they’d likely have to use the 14th pick or finagle some sort of draft day trade to do so. Or maybe not, so says one leading draft and college talent evaluator.

Jim Nagy, one of the leading college football talent scouts and executive director of the Senior Bowl, believes that only one receiver, Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, has a first-round grade heading into April 27. That doesn’t necessarily mean only one will get selected between pick one and pick 32, as different teams have different needs, eval systems and draft boards (see multiple recent Patriots drafts as proof). Perhaps, though, Nagy’s insight means someone like a Zay Flowers, with whom the Pats have been active, or TCU’s Quentin Johnston could be available in the second round, where the Patriots own the 46th pick. They have traded up in the second round a number of times recently (2021 for defensive lineman Christian Barmore and 2022 for receiver Tyquan Thornton), so that wouldn’t be unfamiliar or even uncomfortable territory for them if the right player slipped to Day Two on April 28.

Some who’ve spoken to people around the league push back a bit on the notion that four quality talents, even in a down year for receivers (2022 was a top receiver class), could slip all the way to the second round.

Flowers has been invited to the first round of the NFL Draft, so it would be hard to think only Smith-Njigba gets drafted. Flowers has, thanks to media and fan buzz and great workouts, been moving up boards for weeks. But it all depends on who has what needs, who makes trades and when runs on positions begin, from the quarterbacks to offensive linemen and more. Receiver is a top need for the Patriots, but who knows if after taking a receiver in Round 2 last year they’ll invest heavily to fortify their weapons again so soon.

Yet another layer of intrigue nationally and locally as the draft, now just over two weeks away, inches closer.

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