Scouting Report: Is Kadarius Toney Patriots' Next Slot Receiver?

Kadarius Toney is a prototypical speedster with high upside and potential for growth
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Measurables:

Height: 6-foot-0 (1.83m)

Weight: 194 lbs (88kg)

Age: 22

Strengths:

- Incredible blend of short-term explosiveness and long speed (not surprising given his track background)

- Versatility: lined up mainly as a slot (usually as the 3 in trips), but also took snaps at running back where he even took handoffs

- Can effectively stretch the field vertically

- Seems to have dependable hands

- Incredible change of direction ability, couples well with his yards-after-catch (YAC) ability

- Showed a few snaps where he was able to vary speed throughout a route

- Surprising amount of body control for such a fast player

- Good understanding of horizontal leverage against off coverage in vertical route scenarios; understands how to close space on a defender playing for a specific leverage

- Special Teams upside as a returner

Weaknesses:

- Plays smaller than he is; he's six feet tall but plays with the physicality of a 5-foot-10 receiver

- Limited contested catches on tape

- Limited reps against press coverage on tape

- Route running lacked precision, especially on spot routes; there were numerous times where his spot routes settled short of the sticks

- Hands aren't particularly active on routes

- Bumped off routes fairly easily against physical defensive backs

- Character concerns

Summary and Archetype:

Florida receiver Kadarius Toney possesses a combination of speed and quickness that makes him dangerous at every level of the football field. 

The 2020 First-Team All-SEC receiver and former track star has the ability to show off his incredible YAC ability on screens, displays a fairly good zone soft-spot IQ in the intermediate game, and can flat out burn defensive backs playing off-man with 10 yards of cushion.

With Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle being widely touted as the premiere speedster of this year's draft (including by me), Toney has largely been overshadowed; in fact, going into my film session this week, I expected to see a large difference between the two prospects. After looking at each player's film "very powerfully," as we say in my scouting group, I found the difference between Waddle and Toney to be miniscule.

Toney presents many of the same strengths as Waddle but arguably has more short-term explosiveness. His cuts are quick and fluid, even while lacking a lot of the nuance that could transform him into a truly great route-runner. His ability to neutralize a defensive back's off-man leverage reminds me of DeSean Jackson. Toney's route running has room for improvement, but he can be a threat on any given play even without being a route-running maestro.

While Toney's tape showed a lot of positives, it will be hard to judge how well he can handle press-man coverage in the NFL. His overall play strength (what I refer to as "play size") seems lower than what it should be at his height and weight. Additionally, recent reports of character concerns may see his draft stock fall slightly; regardless, there is a good chance that Toney is gone by the end of Day 1, and he will almost certainly be drafted by the end of Day 2, barring some major off-field revelation.

Fit with the Patriots:

Toney's fit with the New England Patriots will be similar to the fit I explained for Waddle in my previous scouting report.

READ MORE: Scouting Report: Jaylen Waddle Is the Spark Plug Patriots Need

However, Toney does have the size to take snaps consistently as an outside receiver as well. His ability to threaten the field vertically is an invaluable asset for an offense as anemic as the current iteration of the Patriots'.

Toney's ability to effectively run the slot fade route will be a great way for the New England offense to open up receivers in the short and intermediate areas, especially to the middle of the field. The Patriots' offense was unable to reliably work between the numbers during their 2020 campaign, and a single effective slot receiver can certainly change that.

Toney's instincts for following downfield blocks can make him an effective weapon on screen passes and end-arounds as well, two plays that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels particularly favors; these plays were usually meant for Julian Edelman out of the slot, but with Edelman aging and the team needing an heir, Toney could absolutely be a viable replacement.

While Toney is certainly an incredible receiver and truthfully not as far off from Waddle as most believe, I still believe Waddle is the better prospect; as such, I would be fine with drafting Toney at 15 if there is a relative paucity of weapons by then, but I would prefer for the team to trade down if they plan on taking him in the first round. Toney is absolutely worth a first-round pick, but I'm not convinced he's worth a top 15 pick -- however, if he falls to the second round by some miracle, he is absolutely worth the value.