The New England Patriots have a reputation of finding diamonds in the rough when it comes to talent in the NFL. Players such as Julian Edelman and Tom Brady were taken in the seventh and sixth rounds of their respective draft classes and have turned into some of the greatest to ever play their respective positions. Where the Patriots have succeeded arguably more than any other team in the NFL however is in finding undrafted free agents (UDFA’s) who inevitably end up finding their way onto the 53 man roster to start the season.
Some of the more notable UDFA’s throughout the Bill Belichick and Brady era include Super Bowl 49 hero Malcolm Butler, and now team captain and anchor on the interior offensive line David Andrews. A UDFA has made the 53 man roster for the Patriots in 15 straight seasons so it stands to reason that someone from this year’s crop of players will also survive the roster cuts. Enter Jakobi Meyers.
Meyers, who played primarily slot receiver during his college career at NC State, joined the Patriots following this year’s NFL draft. Less than impressive combine results is likely what led to Meyers failing to hear his name called over the three days of the NFL draft. Clocking in at 4.63 seconds for the 40 yard dash, Meyers was tied for the second slowest time of any receiver who participated in the event. His three cone time of 7.07 seconds however was tied for 15th of all receivers who participated which placed him much more so in the middle of the pack at the position.
There’s a former New England slot receiver with similar combine measurables of a 4.65 second 40 yard dash and a 7.09 second three cone drill; Wes Welker. Making this comparison in no way implies that Meyers will find similar success, but more just goes to show that measurables at the combine don’t always necessarily indicate future success at the next level. The Patriots offensive system as it is currently comprised is predicated on precise route running and being able to make contested catches over the middle of the field and create separation as it is on straight line, deep ball speed.
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Meyers weighs in at 203 pounds at 6’2” which is where he differs most from former Patriots slot receivers. The aforementioned Welker is listed as 5’9”, Julian Edelman is listed at 5’10”, and Danny Amendola is listed at 5’11” Meyers’ height of 6’2” gives him a significant height advantage over these former New England legends. His slightly larger frame allows for Meyers to bring down more contested catches, as well as be a more effective red zone threat when it comes to jump balls.
This contested catch ability was showcased in his college career. Meyers’ final season at NC State saw him finish with 85 receptions from the slot position, the most in the FBS at the position. Meyers also finished the season third in receiving yards from the slot position with 984. On top of being one of the more productive slot receivers who declared for this year’s draft, Meyers also finished in the top five at the position in both drop rate, and contested catch percentage.
The slot receiver position is lacking a future right now behind a 33 year old Edelman. If Meyers is able to make the 53 man roster, he adds a combination of both youth and size at the position that could lend itself to potentially filling in as the replacement once Edelman decides to put an end to his storied career.
The offensive system and playbook in New England is difficult to understand for even some of the leagues most seasoned veteran receivers and earning the trust of Brady is no easy task. Meyers will have to both grasp the offense and earn the trust and respect of Brady and the coaching staff if he wants to make the 53 man roster. If Meyers is able to show flashes of potential throughout the spring into training camp and the preseason, his combination of size and positional scarcity have Meyers poised to continue the 15 year streak of a UDFA finding himself on the Patriots 53 man roster come week one.
–Adam Myers is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @AdamTMyers