Bill Belichick, Patriots counting on big jump from young WRs

Percy Harvin ready to return to the NFL (0:27)

Josina Anderson tweets that former NFL wide receiver Percy Harvin has been training with a former Olympian and is ready to return to the NFL. (0:27)

Sometimes "it is what it is" with Bill Belichick. Then there are times when he goes deeper and explains why it is.

There was a notable exchange with the New England Patriots coach along those lines shortly after the NFL draft concluded on Saturday night.

The Patriots selected 10 players, but in what was viewed as a historically deep crop of wide receivers, didn't address the position. Part of that was a result of focusing on other needs. While Belichick noted additions could come in the future, he explained another reason.

"I'm sure that all our young players will improve in Year 2. Got a first-round pick on N'Keal [Harry] last year. Second-round pick on Mohamed [Sanu] -- that was really off this draft," he said. "Obviously have Julian [Edelman] and a number of other young players. I think that will be a very competitive group."

Belichick's remarks highlight how the Patriots will be counting on critical development from Harry, the 32nd overall selection at this time last year. Also how Sanu, whom some might have viewed in jeopardy of a roster spot given his $6.5 million salary and how eliminating it could help the team's salary-cap squeeze, remains a big part of the Patriots' plans.

Harry, Sanu and Edelman top the depth chart entering the 2020 season, and Belichick also noted the free-agent agreement struck with former Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals receiver Damiere Byrd (one year, $2.3 million). That was telling, as Byrd's speed and special-teams contributions could ultimately be an upgrade over Phillip Dorsett in a reserve role.

Also, Belichick's reference to young players improving in Year 2 would include 2019 undrafted free agents Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, as well as practice-squad players Devin Ross and Quincy Adeboyejo. They will be joined by Will Hastings (Auburn), Sean Riley (Syracuse) and Isaiah Zuber (Mississippi State), all of whom reportedly will be joining the team as undrafted free agents.

And perhaps veteran Marqise Lee, who entered the league as a second-round pick in 2014 with the Jaguars, could be a surprise contributor after agreeing to a one-year deal last week.

So no draft pick, no big concern to Belichick.

"There's a lot of different ways and times to build your team," he said. "The draft is one of them."

Entering the draft, receiver was rated as the Patriots' fourth-biggest need (not including quarterback), with a specific type of playmaker in mind, too; someone similar to Georgia's Mecole Hardman, who the Kansas City Chiefs selected in the 2019 second round.

Penn State's KJ Hamler was identified as the closest fit to that type of prospect, as his big-play ability could have nicely complemented the skills of bigger receivers like Harry and Sanu, and the experience and savvy of Edelman.

But the Denver Broncos drafted Hamler 46th overall. So, in essence, the Patriots chose safety Kyle Dugger (No. 37) over a player like Hamler, which isn't a surprise given Belichick's draft history filled with second-round defensive backs (not always for the better).

In explaining the Hamler pick, Broncos vice president John Elway told Peter King of NBC Sports, "He's explosive and really tough. It's hard to go 80 yards in this league, and we feel like we drafted two guys who can [in Hamler and first-rounder Jerry Jeudy]."

That seems to be the one missing piece for the Patriots at receiver as they move forward with the growing likelihood of 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham as their starting quarterback.

So after not selecting a receiver in the draft, they'll be on the lookout for other opportunities in the future. Veteran Percy Harvin, who told ESPN's Josina Anderson he'd like to come out of retirement, fits the mold but it's unclear if the Patriots would have interest.