Patriots rookie WR Tyquan Thornton is exactly what Mac Jones needs

Baylor Bears wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (9) Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Baylor Bears wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (9) Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

I don’t get the Tyquan Thornton criticism. Fans wanted the New England Patriots to select a receiver early, right? That’s exactly what the Patriots did. So why did so many give the selection a thumbs down?

Is it because he’s not the receiver they wanted? Well Thornton isn’t who I wanted (Chris Olave) or who I expected (John Metchie III), but I’m glad the Patriots addressed the problem in the second round. I’m even happier that they went out and got the player they wanted, trading up four spots to secure the former Baylor Bear.

One thing I’m conscious of is when teams that know how to scout receivers select ones I like in the draft. Last year Clemson’s Amari Rodgers, Tennessee’s Josh Palmer, and Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette stood out to me. They were selected by the Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Chargers and Minnesota Vikings, respectively.

Did the New England Patriots reach with the selection of Tyquan Thornton?

Thornton was selected amid a run of receivers. Between the 43rd and 54th selections, six of the 12 selections were wide receivers. The teams that selected receivers after the Patriots: the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, and Kansas City Chiefs.

So maybe it’s true that, according to Pro Football Focus’ Doug Keyd, the New England Patriots had to trade up to select Thornton because another team had Thornton as their top rated receiver available on day two of the draft. If either the Steelers, Colts or Chiefs wanted Thornton, then you should feel good that the Patriots got him.

The New England Patriots got Mac Jones the deep threat he needs in Tyquan Thornton

And what the New England Patriots got is a deep threat to get the most out of quarterback Mac Jones. During his 2020 Heisman Trophy-winning season, Jones was an excellent deep ball passer. It helped to have Metchie, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle to throw to, who all averaged more than 15 yards per reception.

Nelson Agholor was supposed to be Jones’ deep threat, but disappointed with just a 12.7-yard average last season. Kendrick Bourne had a 14.5-yard average, but that was boosted by a 75-yard touchdown reception against the Tennessee Titans. Without it, Bourne averaged 13.4 yards.

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Thornton is a straight burner. We all know about his 4.28 40-yard dash, but the key is Thornton gets up to speed quickly. His 10-yard and 20-yard splits are elite, meaning if he’s going down field, it won’t take him long to get to his top speed and pass his defender.

Another key attribute is Thornton is a hands catcher. In his highlights Thornton has no problems reaching out and plucking the ball out of the air. Whether he’s extending his hands along the sideline or reaching out to snag an off target pass, once the ball hits his mitts, it isn’t going anywhere.

Some say Thornton has small hands. So what? As long as Thornton comes down with the pass, it doesn’t matter how big or small his hands are. And if you think Thornton is a one trick pony, seven of his 10 touchdown receptions were in the red zone.

Is Thornton everything I wanted? No. I would had liked a receiver that is a little thicker. Thornton tipped the scales at 182 pounds, but that can be remedied with time spent with the New England Patriots training staff. Besides, there were a lot of people that wanted Jameson Williams and he weighed 188 pounds. Six pounds won’t be the difference between success or failure.

And though Thornton is a deep threat with excellent length, he tested poorly in the three cone and 20-yard shuttle drills.

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Beyond those two gripes, the Thornton selection is just what the New England Patriots needed, and they went and got him instead of settling for someone else. For all the criticism New England got for selecting Thornton, CLNS Media Patriots reporter Evan Lazar gushed for 25 minutes about Thornton in his video breakdown and CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Chris Trapasso gave the Thornton selection an A-:

"Major sleeper at WR. Not just 4.28 fast. Runs crisp, well-sold routes. Very natural hands catcher. Snatches the ball away from his frame effortlessly. This is precisely what the Patriots needed offensively. Spindly though. Not costly to move up."

It doesn’t mean that Thornton becomes a stud. It also doesn’t mean he’s going to be a bust. The point is Jones needed a deep threat to get the most out of his talent, and the New England Patriots got him the fastest one available.