Throughout the regular season in 2020, the New England Patriots skill group’s clearly lacked talent. Cam Newton had only six passing touchdowns. Newton also barely broke 2,500 yards passing, a ridiculously low number in the modern NFL era. Their leading rusher was Damien Harris who did not break 800 yards rushing, and their leading receiver was Jakobi Meyers with 729 yards.
New England could see what everyone else kept pointing out: the Patriots lacked talent on offense. So, they spent big once free agency hit. Heading into free agency with roughly 64 million in salary cap room, the Patriots used it, and then some. They spent roughly 160 million in guaranteed money.
The question is, did they spend it wisely? They added wide receivers, tight ends, offensive lineman, and brought back their starting quarterback from 2020. However, the Patriots are fighting an uphill battle; they already had little talent at those positions. Any new talent added was probably the only talent that would stick at that position. So, even after all those signings, did the Patriots truly upgrade? Or are they stuck with a roster of average players?
Are the Patriots Skill Groups the Worst In the NFL?
The Patriots unquestioningly added players with talent to their positions of need. But they already lacked talent at those positions, so it isn’t like they were bringing in more talent to add to what they already had. They were just making sure that their skill group players were worthy of playing in the NFL. The three primary positions that they lacked talented players were at wide receiver, running back, and tight end. Quarterback could be thrown in there as well, and while they did bring Cam Newton back, they drafted Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft. That position remains up in the air as to what it will look like and who will start.
Patriots Skill Group: Wide Receivers
Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne were the splash wide receiver’s that the Patriots added in free agency. Ignoring the likes of Kenny Golladay, the Patriots opted for two, less explosive players. N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers are the other two top options on their roster. Harry, a former first-round pick, has not lived up to expectations. Meyers is an average wide receiver and really belongs as the third or fourth option on the team.
Nelson Aghelor played well for the Las Vegas Raiders last year, but his playmaking is susceptible to drops and is overall inconsistent. Kendrick Bourne has talent but is not worth the contract of 22 million that the Patriots paid him. The Patriots did add wide receiver talent, but they have no clear number one receiver, and they don’t really have a clear number two receiver either. The Patriots basically have four receivers that would be the third or fourth option on most other teams. Overall, the Patriots skill group of wide receivers is probably the worst in the NFL.
There just is not enough talent and upside in this group. The Patriots will clearly need to add to this position next year. The only group that might be worse are also on the Patriots and are up next on this list.
Patriots Skill Group: Running Backs
The Patriots resigned their own James White in free agency, otherwise leaving the group untouched. Damien Harris was the Patriots leading rusher last year but did not break 750 yards rushing. White is a receiving back and not a dynamic one. And, like another first-round pick on the Patriots, Sony Michel has not lived up to expectations. Michel might not even make the roster when everything is said and done before the season begins.
The Patriots did draft Rhamondre Stevenson in the draft. Stevenson is a fine back, but in a weak running back draft class, he is not a player that the Patriots can rely on to win the starting job. The Patriots running backs all have one thing in common: a lack of splash dynamic ability. White is not an explosive receiving back and Michel and Harris combined for only three (three!) touchdowns last year.
The Patriots skill group of running backs is clearly the worst in their roster and in the NFL. They do not have anyone with upside besides Stevenson, and he is a fourth-round pick. Even the Houston Texans added Phillip Lindsay, who has actually had over 1,000 yards rushing in a season. None of the running backs on the Patriots roster can say that.
Patriots Skill Group: Tight Ends
This group is where the Patriots seriously spent money and upgraded. Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry could be the best one-two tight end punch in the league this year. Smith is a fine blocker and can provide splash plays when called upon. He also brings versatility to the position that Henry lacks. Henry and Smith are dynamic receiving tight ends and big targets for whoever is playing quarterback.
Henry brings some risk, as he has never played a full 16 game regular season. And the NFL is expanding to 17 games this season. The backups are nothing to write home about either. With players like Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, and Matt LaCosse, if Henry or Smith goes down with an injury (which is likely in Henry’s case), the Patriots have little behind them.
However, Henry and Smith are both talented players and the Patriots skill group of tight ends is clearly not the worst in the NFL. That is an outlier, however. Overall, the Patriots skill groups of wide receiver and running back are the worst in the NFL, with their running back group clearly taking the crown. The Patriots skill group of tight ends actually could be top-five in the league. Even so, the Patriots have arguably the worst total skill position players in the NFL.