The New England Patriots handed out roughly $77.5 million this offseason in guaranteed money to Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne — all additions targeted on improving what has been one of the NFL’s worst receiving corps over the past two seasons. Despite this flurry of activity, there is a strong chance New England’s top target in the passing game was already on the roster.
Jakobi Meyers, a 2019 undrafted free agent out of North Carolina State, has proven he deserves the No. 1 wide receiver designation over the past year. It may not be saying much, but Meyers was comfortably New England’s best wide receiver in 2020.
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Meyers posted a top-20 receiving grade in just his sophomore season. That's particularly impressive for an undrafted wide receiver who, for inspiration, googled “big receivers who are slow who run good routes” when he converted to the position from quarterback during his time at N.C. State.
PFF receiving grades by Patriots wide receivers | 2020
|Receiver||Routes Run||Receiving Grade||Pos. Rank|
|Jakobi Meyers||325||80.1||20 / 115|
|Damiere Byrd||469||63.3||82 / 115|
|N’Keal Harry||318||61.4||92 / 115|
That work Meyers has put in as a route runner has paid off. He finished in the 80th percentile of receivers in success rate vs. man coverage (via Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception) and has been able to regularly create separation without high-end speed.
Those route-running chops and his feel for finding holes in zone coverage made up the backbone of Meyers’ 80.1 receiving grade in 2020 — over a 10-point jump from his 67.0 mark in just over 400 snaps as a rookie in 2019. Early indications point to an even bigger 2021 from Meyers.