The New England Patriots enjoyed one of their most successful drafts in recent memory in 2021 and are now looking to build upon that young core this offseason. With the quarterback position now figured out following the selection of Mac Jones last year, one of the club's biggest needs on the offensive side this offseason comes at wide receiver. Specifically, the Patriots need a talent that sits atop the depth chart at that spot.
With the NFL Scouting Combine upon them, New England appears to be in the initial stages of possibly filling that need. According to Armando Salguero of OutKick, the Patriots have set up meetings with a handful of wide receiver prospects, including Ohio State's Chris Olave, Treylon Burks of Arkansas, and Alabama's Jameson Williams. When it comes to those three pass catchers, Salguero adds that New England will conduct those interviews back-to-back-to-back so they can directly compare the players against one another.
In his latest mock draft, CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Ryan Wilson has Burks (No. 12 overall), Williams (No. 28), and Olave (No. 32) all coming off the board in the first round and somewhat within New England's range at No. 21 overall. It should be noted that Wilson does have the Patriots taking USC receiver Drake London in the first round.
Williams is one of the more intriguing prospects for the Patriots on a couple of different fronts. While considered arguably the most talented receiver in this class, his draft stock has taken a bit of a hit after he suffered a torn ACL in the National Championship Game against Georgia. However, Bill Belichick could look at that as finding value that would otherwise not be available to him. Of course, there's also that Alabama connection thanks to the friendship between Belichick and Nick Saban. That certainly played a role in the club identifying former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones as their next signal-caller last offseason, and it wouldn't be a surprise to hear about Belichick ringing up his old pal to get the scoop on Williams.
Meanwhile, CBS Sports' prospect rankings has Burks as the No. 3 ranked receiver in this class (No. 17 overall), and Olave slots in as the fifth-best receiver (No. 23 overall).
While the Patriots could look to the draft to fill this need at receiver, the team has historically struggled to find help at this position in the top half of the NFL Draft. The team selected N'Keal Harry in the first round of the 2019 draft and he has yet to make an impact comparable to his draft status. New England has also seen the likes of Aaron Dobson (second round, 2015), Chad Jackson (second round, 2006) and others flame out under Bill Belichick.
Given that track record, the safer route could be to look at the free-agent or trade market, albeit with that path coming at a much higher cost. No matter which way they address it, however, it's promising that they are combing through some of the elite options at the draft to possibly pair a high-ceiling receiver alongside Mac Jones as he enters Year 2.