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Introducing the Newest Pats Rookie WR to Get Ridiculously Over-Excited About: Demario Douglas

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Yesterday in a report I wrote from the fifth practice of Patriots training camp, I mentioned one rookie who has already distinguished himself enough to be worthy of a stand-alone blog: Demario Douglas, the 6th rounder (210th overall) out of Liberty. 

And the wording of that headline is very intentional. Because it was exactly four years ago today that I used the same phraseology in a post about the surprise of 2019 camp: 

There’s a time honored tradition at the beginning of August in New England that’s as sacred as the lobster roll, Cape traffic, sunburns on Irish skin that was a pale blue in May, temporary Halloween stores opening or watching summer beers get replaced by Pumpkin Ales and Octoberfests while it’s still 95 degrees out. And that is the arrival of the Overhyped Wide Receiver Prospect. And this August is no exception.

And after acknowledging how many similar rookie wideouts flashed the way Jakobi Meyers had (Bethel Johnson, Taylor Price, Aaron Dobson, Malcolm Mitchell, Braxton Berrios,.Tony Simmons just to name a few), I recognized the UDFA was already out performing the Pats 1st round pick: 

Anyway, Meyers has been the absolute standout of Camp Belichick thus far. While N’Keal Harry has shown a sort of unnerving talent for following up an improbable, diving, full extension grab by dropping one that hits him right between the thumbs, Meyers has caught everything thrown at him practically. Including Thursday’s practice when he elevated to snatch a Tom Brady pass over Devin McCourty’s head and another from Jarrett Stidham between two defenders, tipping it to himself while keeping his concentration to secure it. … 

So allow me to get emotionally attached to this kid now and beat the rush. You should too. That Jakobi Meyers Hype Train is leaving the station, it’s an express and I’m not only on board, I am happy to drive it.

Show me the lie anywhere in there. Never mind. Save your strength. You can't. 

Not only did N'Keal Harry flame out spectacularly as I was I was already seeing, Meyers went on to be the favorite target of the Patriots next five starting quarterbacks. Their consistently most productive pass catching weapon. And the most coveted free agent as his position this past offseason, with a new $33 million contract from his former offensive coordinator in Las Vegas. 

Now, a lesser man would sit here and crow about how he got in on the ground floor of the player and was so thoroughly right he was, right from the get go. But that would be untoward. And I prefer to be very, very toward. I'll leave it to others to celebrate the almost clairvoyant accuracy with which I predicted Meyers future excellence. 

To that end, it's hard not to watch Douglas so far and not see how he's on an almost identical trajectory. Both went to smaller programs (Meyers played for NC State). Each was productive enough late in their careers to swing a bowl invitation, with Meyers going to the Senior and Douglas the East-West Shrine, where they distinguished themselves against the best talent in the draft. And obviously both caught the eyes of the Patriots. Especially Douglas, since the coaching staff was working that one. And so far it looks like that assignment is paying dividends.

The obvious difference between the two is size. Meyers is 6-2, 200. Douglas is 5-8, is on Pro Football Reference as a Hobbit-like 170, but officially listed by the team as 192. But his lack of size hasn't prevented him from making an immediate impact.

And like I said earlier, since the first workout of camp, Douglas has found himself front and center of Bill O'Brien's offense, part of a tight rotation of receivers practicing with the first unit that includes Juju Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker and the two tight ends. He's gotten more reps out of the slot than anyone, and so far appears to have at least the beginning stages of that Wes Welker/Julian Edelman style short area quickness and change-of-direction that has been the 10W 40 that has kept the Pats offensive engine lubed for two decades. 

But he's not been limited to the slot. Douglas has been split out wide. Put into motion. Used on Jet Sweeps. Lined up in the backfield. And perhaps most impressively, contributed in the full pads workout blocking upfield on screen passes. Which didn't go unnoticed by the veterans. “What surprised me the most is his physicality," Jabrill Peppers said. "He’s a smaller guy but he’s tough as nails. I think that will bode well for him." 

He's also been in the mix as a punt returner, which he did at Liberty. Though some draft scouting reports mentioned a history of muffed punts, so it remains to be seen if he's trustworthy enough to take the job from Marcus Jones. He doesn't have Jones' top-end speed (few humans do), but he ran a 4.44 at the Combine, good for 14th among all wideouts.

Speaking of the scouting reports, here's what a couple of them had to say last spring: - Smallish slot receiver with adequate speed and quickness but inconsistent route running and ball skills. Douglas has the ability to slip press and can be a tough route-runner for defenses to read, but he needs to get better at the finer points of the craft to separate from NFL coverage. He won’t be a plus ball-winner on contested catches, but he can make challenging grabs.

Pro Football Network - Strengths: Quick, explosive receiver whose draft stock is rising. Quickly releases off the line of scrimmage, immediately gets to top speed, and runs great routes. Sticks his foot in the ground, fires into breaks, and stays low on exit to position himself to make the reception. Comes back to the ball, extends his hands, and consistently makes the reception away from his frame. 

Tracks the pass in the air, displays eye/hand coordination, and looks the ball into his hands. Plays tough football and gets up in a crowd to come down with the contested catch despite a lack of size. Knows where he is on the field, works his hands to separate from defenders, and adjusts to the errant throw. Keeps the play in bounds and works to pick up positive yardage after the catch. Productive return specialist in college.

Weaknesses: Lacks a true second gear. Small and struggles in battles.

Let me be the first to concede a lot of these things are just a word soup that can be said about any receiver prospect coming out in any year. Including Welker (undrafted) and Edelman (7th round and a college QB). And contradictory, since one says he can't make the "challenging grabs" and the other says in a crowd, he'll "come down with the contested catch," which sounds challenging to me. But if accurate, all of these traits - quick release, precise routes, good hands, spatial awareness, toughness - are precisely what have been valued in the Erhardt-Perkins system since Troy Brown (8th rounder) was playing his way into the franchise's Hall of Fame. 

And given the fact Douglas is playing with the top unit and the coaches and quarterbacks are getting the ball to him consistently, it's fair to say those reports are accurate. The eyeball tests say they are:

And once again, I'm going to beat the rush and get myself another great seat on the Rookie WR Hype Train. Which is to say, driver's seat. All aboard.

Giphy Images.