Why Tyquan Thornton may not make his mark on Patriots offense in 2022

Henry McKenna
Patriots Wire

The New England Patriots don’t need Tyquan Thornton to contribute in 2022 and that — more than any other reason — is why he’s likely to spend most of the year as the team’s fifth receiver on the depth chart.

The Patriots traded up to pick Thornton in Round 2, a move that surprised many. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll make his mark on the offense during his rookie season.

RELATED:Will rookie WR Tyquan Thornton change the Patriots' fortune at receiver?

The truth is that rookie receivers rarely contribute meaningfully in their first year in New England under Bill Belichick. And this year, more than ever, Thornton will have a hard time ascending the depth chart.

May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (51) does a drill at the team's OTA at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots are entering a season where they have Jakobi Meyers, a reliable slot option who has proven he can produce. They also have players entering their second year in the offense after signing in free agency: Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor. And then there’s the recent acquisition of DeVante Parker, who joined the Patriots in a trade this offseason.

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The Patriots are also likely going to use a solid amount of two running backs and two tight end sets. Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry will be a big part of the offense. James White is returning from an injury and Rhamondre Stevenson excelled as a pass-catcher.

New England has no shortage of weapons.

Thornton’s most direct competition will be Parker and Agholor, the top outside receivers on the roster. Parker is a big-bodied field stretcher who has the frame to serve as a weapon in the red area. Agholor is a speedster and a deep threat.

That makes it harder for Thornton to find a meaningful role. While Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh touted as a burner with red zone-scoring potential, Thronton’s skills overlap with both Parker and Agholor.

The Patriots will likely end up giving Thornton a year to develop. And at minicamp, he looked like he might just be the type of player who needs just that year of seasoning. He’s slight of frame and didn’t necessarily play with the blazing speed that he showed at the NFL combine.

That shouldn’t necessarily worry Patriots fans.

New England generally likes to ease its second-round picks into action. That said, the Patriots have drafted receivers at times of need in the past. When they drafted N’Keal Harry in Round 1, they badly needed help at receiver. Harry remains one of the team’s biggest first-round disappointments.

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When New England drafted Aaron Dobson in Round 2 and Josh Boyce, a fourth-rounder, in 2013, the team needed help alongside Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola.

Thornton has time to watch and learn, if he needs it. If he fights past the veterans that are above him, the Patriots will likely be pleased. But New England clearly doesn’t expect him to serve as the WR1 in Year 1. Thornton is a developmental prospect who should explode in 2022 when the Patriots look light at receiver. Perhaps that’s when Thornton can stage a dramatic ascent.