The New England Patriots did not address wide receiver during the first two days of the NFL Draft, but that could change on Saturday, April 29.
Patriots insider Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston suggested West Florida wide receiver David Durden as a late-round option. Also a former baseball player, the Boston Red Sox previously drafted Durden 2017 MLB Draft out of Mercer, where he also played football. Durden played for the Rex Sox’s rookie league team and batted .229 in 30 games before he left baseball for college football at West Florida.
“Durden meets many of the Patriots’ standards athletically thanks to his 4.46-second 40, a 37-inch vertical and a 10-foot-7 broad jump,” Perry wrote. “He averaged 23.1 yards per catch in 2021 for Division II West Florida and followed that up with a 54-catch, 1,128-yard campaign with 13 scores in 2022.”
At Mercer, Durden also fared well in two seasons for the Division I FCS Bears. He made freshman All-American honors amid 18 receptions for 407 yards and seven total touchdowns, which included a 95-yard kickoff return for a score in 2018. As a sophomore, Durden caught 45 passes for 647 yards and four touchdowns, and he averaged 25.9 yards on kickoff returns as he received All-Southern Conference honors.
David Durden Became This Year’s ‘Prospect X’
Because of Durden’s athletic ability and unique path to the NFL, The Athletic’s Kalyn Kahler featured him as “Prospect X” this year. The annual feature takes a look at a little-known NFL Draft prospect but doesn’t name the player directly.
“Every team he’s talked to has been fascinated by his brief foray into another career,” Kahler wrote. “His boss at that job has worked with more than 1,600 employees and said X ‘stood out like a sore thumb’ because he was such a hard worker and always put forth 100-percent effort. The boss said X had a lot of potential and was surprised when X told him he was quitting to go play college football.”
Other Receivers on Patriots’ Radar
If the Patriots don’t land Durden or pick another receiver earlier on Saturday, plenty of viable options await head coach Bill Belichick and company.
Options include Arkansas wide receiver Matt Landers, whom Perry identifies as a good boundary receiver option like Durden. Also a collegiate journeyman, Landers tallied 79 receptions for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns amid stints with Georgia, Toledo, and Arkansas.
“With a 4.37 40-yard dash, a 37-inch vertical and a 10-foot-10 broad jump to his name — with his frame — Landers looks like he was built in a lab to play on the outside,” Perry wrote. “He has the traits of a Prototypical Patriot. His production is what would make him a bit of an atypical pick.”
The Patriots could also go for a slot receiver in the late rounds such as Cincinnati’s Tyler Scott. The 5-foot-10, 117-pound Bearcats star caught 87 passes for 1,439 yards and 14 touchdowns in his three-year career.
That included a solid season by Scott amid Bearcats’ run to the College Football Playoff in 2021. Perry noted that Scott makes sense if the Patriots passed on former Boston College Trey Flowers, which the team did at No. 17 on Friday. Scott notably slipped to day three of the draft despite a day two projection.
“He’s got loads of explosive ability [39.5-inch vert, 11-foot-1 broad] packaged in a diminutive frame. And he seems faster on tape than his 4.44-second 40 would indicate,” Perry wrote.
“Though he’s not the prototype from a weight standpoint, he’s the kind of dynamic playmaker that would make an opposing defense sweat — something the Patriots could use,” Perry added.