Kendrick Bourne is most underrated player on Patriots


Bourne had a career year in his first season with the Patriots.

Kendrick Bourne smiled a lot through his career-year in 2021, his first in New England. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Kendrick Bourne had a strong first season in New England. The five-year veteran receiver put up career bests in receptions (55) and receiving yards (800), while tying his career-high for touchdown receptions (five).

Those numbers aren’t the most eye-popping stats, especially considering that they weren’t good enough to finish in the top 10 in any of those statistical categories. But Scott Spratt of Football Outsiders believes Bourne’s better than what the traditional volume stats show, declaring him the most underrated player on the Patriots.

“With a career-high of 74 targets, Bourne has fallen well short of the 100-catch and 1,000-yard benchmarks that earn receivers the most attention. But not even Cooper Kupp or Davante Adams could match Bourne for efficiency last season,” Spratt wrote in an article for that picked the most underrated player on each NFL team.

“The Patriots receiver led his position (minimum 50 targets) with a 30.1% receiving DVOA. And he ranked in the top 12 at the position with both a 7.0 receiving plus/minus — which estimates that he caught seven more passes than an average receiver with his distribution of targets — and 7.0 average yards after the catch.”

Spratt’s praise for Bourne isn’t the first time that the receiver’s been praised this offseason. In late June, Pro Football Focus’s Brad Spielberger wrote that Bourne’s three-year, $15 million contract had the best value on the Patriots.

“Bourne was simply a slam-dunk signing in the 2021 offseason after he didn’t get the opportunity to fully display his skills in a crowded San Francisco 49ers wide receiver group to start his career, Spielberger wrote. “Bourne set career highs across the board in 2021: a 75.2 receiving grade, a 3.5% drop rate, 1.99 yards per route run, 7.2 yards after the catch per reception and 55 receptions for 800 yards. The Patriots will deploy a committee approach at wide receiver, something they’re very familiar and comfortable with, but Bourne has carved out a significant role and good chemistry with quarterback Mac Jones.”

Spielberger also ranked Bourne’s contract as the 17th best valuable contract in the league.

At the end of the 2021 regular season, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell included Bourne on his “NFL All-Underrated Team” for the year.

“[Bourne’s highlight] plays aren’t necessarily typical of his week-to-week role in the offense, but the former 49ers wideout has caught more than 78% of his targets this season,” Barnwell wrote. “NFL Next Gen Stats has his expected catch rate at 67.4%, meaning he’s operating at nearly 11% above expectation. That’s the third-best mark in the league, behind only those of Christian Kirk and [Tim] Patrick.”

As Bourne was clearly a favorite of rookie quarterback Mac Jones in 2021, he’s looking to build on the momentum the duo built in their first year together into their second season.

“Just a lot of confidence, man,” Bourne told NESN’s Zack Cox in June on the feeling he and Jones have entering the 2022 season. “Like for me, it’s my second year with the team, his second year with the team. Just a lot more comfortable, man, knowing what to do. I mean, we do have a new system, but [Jones is] just comfortable in the NFL, in those big games. Just a lot more comfortable, man, and knowing what’s going on.

“[Jones] is over that rookie wave, and now it’s on to his second year. It’s going to be better, man. For myself, for a lot of us new guys that are going into their second year. So it’s going to be exciting.”

Bourne and Jones officially begin their second season together in New England when the Patriots report to training camp on July 26.

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