With the Patriots set to have three picks on day two of the draft, many hoped they would not repeat the dramatic scene of day one. But this is the Bill Belichick Patriots we’re talking about, right? You can’t predict the unpredictable.
There were still a lot of holes to fill after the first round, including receiver, linebacker, and EDGE. Fortunately for the Patriots, because of the chaos that was round one, there was a plethora of talent within their grasp the entire evening.
Set to pick at 54, they chose to trade with the Chiefs to move up four spots and select Tyquan Thornton out of Baylor University. Addressing the WR position was proven to be important with the move. Thornton was not a name set to be off the board so early, but his speed was likely a factor in Belichick’s decision to draft him, as that has been a glaring issue for the Patriots’ receiver core for some time.
What Was The General Reaction To This Pick?
A mixed bag of emotions, once again, as the Patriots made their first pick of the second round.
Analysts and fans alike have harped on the idea of drafting a WR for months prior to this year’s draft. The initial feelings about the Thornton pick was similar to that of Cole Strange’s selection in round one: it felt unnecessary to trade up but also to select him so early.
Graded as a third to fourth-round prospect, many were disappointed Bill Belichick didn’t choose to move up to draft Alabama’s John Metchie. Or draft one of the top WR left on the board in George Pickens and Skyy Moore. But the Thornton pick was very on-brand for the Belichick era in New England; unexpected.
Although picking Thornton may not be a favorite right now, he has a tremendous upside that’s difficult to overlook.
Who Is Tyquan Thornton?
HEIGHT: 6′ 2 3/8″
WEIGHT: 181 LBS COMBINE STATS
WINGSPAN: 79 1/4″
40-YARD DASH: 4.28
Originally from Miami, Florida, Tyquan Thornton was a standout athlete at Booker T. Washington Senior High School. He succeeded on the track team on top of becoming a four-star recruit for football during his time there. His background in track contributed to his versatility on the football field, gaining experience as not only a receiver but also a running back and even QB.
Thornton began his college career at Baylor University in 2018. As a starter for three of the four years spent there, he demonstrated proven development despite needing to learn two different offensive systems in the last two seasons. And the flexibility it takes to be moved all over the offense, as he rotated through all three main WR positions.
In the 42 games he played, Thornton totaled 143 receptions for 2,242 yards and 19 touchdowns. His most impressive stat of all? His 15.7 average yards per reception. This will be quite the upgrade for the Patriots, as their current rostered receivers did not come near that kind of production.
Why Did The Patriots Make This Selection?
Breaking the typical drafting mold, Tyquan Thornton is only the fourth receiver taken in the top 50 during the Bill Belichick era. And just the second since 2006, the other being N’Keal Harry in 2019. It’s clear the team liked what they saw with him, as they made sure to trade up to secure his selection.
If you were hoping the Patriots would add much-needed speed to their offense, then this pick must make you happy. His 40-yard-dash time was the fastest of all receivers in his class. Only 10 players have a faster time at the combine since 2000. Because speed has been seriously lacking on the Patriots’ offense, his presence and playmaking will be a vital piece going forward.
Not only is his speed enticing, but his pure athleticism, explosiveness, and abilities to create yards after the catch are also noteworthy. He’s a twitchy mover who is able to create separation and be a downfield threat for his quarterback. His excellent awareness and physicality allow him to win in 1-on-1 situations and be a good blocker as well.
But on top of everything, Thornton is a great vertical threat. He has unmatchable confidence with the quickness and balance to go up and attack the ball. The possibilities they have with Thornton are exactly why they drafted him. As the tenth receiver now on the team, his experience playing different positions will certainly make him stand out amongst the rest.
What Does Thornton Need To Improve On?
Size: At over 6’2″ but only 181 pounds, he is long and lean. But may need to put on weight to be successful in beating press coverage/defenders
Hands: Measuring one of the smallest hands at the combine, Thornton will have to overcome any obstacles he may face in catching and securing the football. Throughout college, he would often allow passes to land on his pads and/or chest
Agility: At the combine, he ran a slow 7.25 three-cone time, the slowest by a WR drafted by Belichick (other than Matthew Slater)
Quotes From Draft Analysts:
For those looking for a long receiver dripping with speed who can separate, Thornton looks like he fits the bill. There are some questions about his frame and size that could affect his durability, but Mac Jones has to be happy to have a sub-4.3 receiver who can make plays downfield or pull away and take short catches to the house Mike Dussault of Patriots.com
There is a lot to like about Thornton’s game, including his instincts, long speed and ability to create separation on the move. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com
Thornton is an absolute burner … intrigued by this pick. I kinda like it. Paul Perillo of Patriots.com
“Tons of potential, just more track star than football player right now. Baylor didn’t really give him enough of an opportunity to develop the finer points of being a WR. Love the tools, might take some time.” Luke Easterling of The Draft Wire
Snippets From Matt Groh After Rounds Two And Three:
“You want to get faster, you’d better get fast guys, and I don’t know how many guys out there are faster than Tyquan.”
“This isn’t just a linear guy. He’s able to get off the line. … It’s not just speed. It’s 6-2. It’s the ability to get up and pluck the ball out of the air.”
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