ESPN metrics suggest Kendrick Bourne is being massively underused by Patriots

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Patriots fans surely don't need any more evidence to back up their theories that their team isn't playing dynamic receiver Kendrick Bourne enough.

But for those that love some cold, hard numbers: ask and you shall receive.

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ESPN data analyst Seth Walder's report on the site's latest wide receiver tracking metrics suggest Bourne has indeed been one of the most underrated pass-catchers in football since joining the Patriots.

In fact, Walder's numbers list Bourne as one of the NFL's most reliable receivers, hauling in just about everything that comes his way.

"His 91 Catch Score (scale of 0-99) over the past two seasons was too strong a result to ignore," writes Walder. "It's surprising, not only because Bourne isn't a big name but because he has had a hard time getting on the field for New England in 2022…

Since the 2021 season, he has caught 79% of his targets. While his 9.2 air yards per target is not exceptionally deep, it's slightly longer than stars such as Kupp or Keenan Allen (Chargers), and yet Bourne has a higher catch rate than either."

Bourne had fewer targets (70) than both Jakobi Meyers (126) and Hunter Henry (75) last season but still finished second in yards (800) behind Meyers and posted a higher yards-per-catch average than either (14.5).

He also created explosive plays at a top-five rate among wide receivers last season, making him arguably the Patriots' play-maker in 2021.

Since the start of this season, though, Bourne has been relegated to an afterthought in the team's run-heavy offensive schemes, getting out-snapped by Lil'Jordan Humphrey so far this season due to Humphrey's prowess as a blocker. Bourne, meanwhile, is apparently viewed as a pass-only option.

Still, he continues to make the most of his limited chances.

"For what it is worth, Bourne's 3.4 yards per route run this season ranks fourth among receivers and tight ends who have run at least 30 routes, behind Jaylen Waddle (Dolphins), Tyreek Hill (Dolphins) and A.J. Brown (Eagles). He has just seven catches for 115 yards, but perhaps he should play more snaps for the Patriots," Walder concludes.

Well, Walder's probably not wrong.

Even with just seven catches on the season, Bourne is already one of four Patriots receivers over 100 yards, and only DeVante Parker has a higher yards-per-catch average (thanks to last Sunday's 156-yard explosion).

Mac Jones' injury might put a damper on Bourne's production, though, if Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia insist on running the football more than throwing it to protect backups Brian Hoyer and Bailey Zappe. That philosophy would likely involve more snaps for Humphrey over Bourne -- a trend that has irked many fans.

But if the Patriots want to keep up their improvement as an explosive-play offense this season, they could likely stand to use Bourne more than they have. After all, those backup quarterbacks will need all the help they can get.