The Patriots added a speedy playmaker to the wide receiver room in April's NFL Draft.
It was an obvious need considering New England had arguably the slowest collection of starting skill players in the league last season. Between Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, N'Keal Harry, and even their top two tight ends in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, Bill Belichick's pass catchers lacked speed.
To help fix that problem, the Patriots drafted Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton. In fact, the Patriots traded up to No. 50 overall to ensure getting their guy. Thornton ran an electric 4.28 40-yard dash time and could add an explosive element to the offense that New England has been lacking.
Even though it's very early in the process, Thornton's teammates are taking notice.
“Tyquan’s dope,” Bourne said Monday. “We got to get some weight on my guy, but bro is blazing, though. Good attitude also. He’s bought in. You can tell he cares.”
While Thornton has blazing speed, he may need to bulk up as he transitions into the NFL. At the combine, he measured in at 6-foot-2 and just 181 pounds. That makes him one of the lightest receivers on the team.
“I was definitely skinny,” recalled Bourne, who remains listed on head coach Bill Belichick’s roster at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds. “I’ve put on a little weight now, you know? Shoutout to Bill. But this is the place to do that. So if he buys in and applies the things he needs to, he’ll be able to get to the place he wants to be. Because for me, I bought in and it worked out fast, man. You get the result you put in.”
That ability may also help Mac Jones improve his deep ball. He completed just 38.1 percent of his throws 20+ yards down the field last season and had a passer rating of 72.4, according to Pro Football Focus.
Bourne, who signed a three-year, $15 million contract last spring, was the lone playmaker on offense last season. He quickly became a fan favorite thanks to his energy at practice and on the field on game day. He was often spotted dancing during stretching and he quickly bought into the 'Patriot Way.'
The 2017 undrafted free agent out of Eastern Washington went on to set career highs with 55 receptions for 800 yards in his first season as a Patriot. He also added rushing attempts to his repertoire with 12 carries for 125 yards. Perhaps that is an avenue Thornton takes over with his speed?
“I think it was a dope pick, man,” added Bourne. “We need speed and we need to add that downfield threat. And so, I think he gives us another in that part of the field. That’s another thing — learning from him, too. I can learn from him. He can learn from us. He’s in the right place. If he has the right attitude and applies himself, this type of place will take you to another level.”
There’s plenty of time to see what Thornton is capable of with the Patriots. The third OTA practice behind Gillette Stadium is scheduled for Thursday.