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Have the New England Patriots outsmarted everyone again?
ebert
Photo via West Point Public Affairs/Flickr

Heading into  the 2013 offseason there is great interest in the New England passing attack. Gronk and Hernandez are star tight ends, but who else is going to catch passes from Tom Brady? Excluding practice squad players for the moment, the Patriots only have Brandon Lloyd and Matt Slater under contract for the 2013 season. It is clear that the Pats are lacking a true #1 wide receiver on their roster which may lead them to draft a high end option like DeAndre Hopkins in round 1.

Where things get more interesting is in the slot, where Wes Welker has wreaked havoc on the NFL for the last six years but is now a free agent. Should the Pats resign Welker? Should they opt for the cheaper, but productive Edelman? Or maybe they should draft a guy like Tavon Austin?

What if they do none of the above? What if there is another outcome we haven’t considered? What if the Patriots are going to roll with their 7th round pick of the 2012 draft, Northwestern Wildcat receiver Jeremy Ebert?

Jeremy Ebert has some elite attributes. Consider how he compares to premium wide receivers like Greg Jennings and Torrey Smith. Note the similar body types and performances in the 40, shuttle, and 3 cone.

Player Height Weight 40 Vertical Broad Jump Shuttle 3 cone
Jeremy Ebert 70.8 200 4.38 33 112 4.15 6.7
Torrey Smith 72.9 204 4.41 41 126 4.13 6.72
Greg Jennings 71.1 197 4.42 36.5 117 4.18 6.69

Although Ebert isn’t an explosive, #1 receiver type, we can conclude that he is an incredibly fast and agile player, which is perfect for the role. But what about his performance? More than just physical measures, Ebert’s productivity is comparable to what Smith and Jennings did in college. Ebert’s yards/target performance in his final season matches perfectly with Smith and is ahead of Jennings.

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I will concede that his market share of yards wasn’t elite, but it was still over the 30% hurdle that is common among most high end NFL receivers.

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Where things get interesting is when you consider that he acquired a prolific market share of touchdowns, joining Jennings and Smith in the exclusive 40% club.

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Where things get really interesting is when you consider that Ebert caught an astonishing 60% of his red zone targets, indicating he knows how to get open in crowded spaces and has a nose for the end zone. Does that description remind you of anyone else?

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So, who is Jeremy Ebert? In high school he was a three sport athlete and a prolific dual threat quarterback. At Northwestern he hauled in 137 passes for 2,000+ yards and 19 touchdowns in his final two college seasons. Despite that success he was not invited to the Combine and ranked #69 of the 2012 receivers. Once drafted, he struggled with injuries during his rookie training camp, got cut, was signed by the Eagles, got cut again, and finally landed back on the Patriots.

So what makes me think this guy could replace Welker? I love the blend of receiving productivity (which Edelman lacks) and physical attributes:

Player Height Weight 40 Vertical Broad Jump Shuttle 3 cone NCAA Rec. Yards NCAA Rec. TDs Per year in 2013
Jeremy Ebert 70.8 200 4.38 33 112 4.15 6.7 2400 21 $450k
Wes Welker 68.8 195 4.65 30 113 4.01 7.09 3069 21 $9M+ (?)

Will Jeremy Ebert become the next Wes Welker? Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps Julian Edelman is really the guy to watch. But you have to wonder why the smartest team in football would go out of their way to acquire Ebert on two occasions. Now, consider that Ebert has elite agility and was incredibly productive in college and there’s a lot to like. The question is whether or not the Patriots like Ebert enough to play him in 2013 and let Wes Welker walk.

(Want to do your own research? Play around with the Wide Receiver app!)

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