After going undrafted, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers turned heads early on during training camp before starring against the Lions on Thursday night.
The New England Patriots have long since been exiled from the land of fairy tales and Cinderella stories.
Tom Brady is no longer a gangly sixth-round draft pick staring off with incredulous wonder at the confetti falling all around him. The same squad that chose to be introduced as a team at Super Bowl 36 now features plenty of stand-alone stars and household names, both past and present. And what once was one of the more embarrassingly pathetic franchises in the old AFL and new AFC is now the cream of the NFL and AFC crop, a perennial Goliath in a division filled with Davids.
That all being said, every now and then there comes a player out of New England that embodies that old spirit of magic and myth; a player that feels less like just another stormtrooper joining the ranks at the Death Star, and more like one of the plucky Rebels defying all the odds to make a major impact.
Malcolm Butler was such a player for a time in New England. Adam Vinatieri, before he became a Boston legend (and then a traitor by signing with the Colts), also came from humble beginnings and relative obscurity.
Now, it appears it’s Jakobi Meyers’ time to shine.
The former NC State wideout went undrafted last April. He wasn’t even the leading receiver on his own college squad in 2018, though he did finish First-Team All-ACC. Only a three-star prospect on some draft prospect websites, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick evidently saw enough in Meyers’ three years of game film coming out of Raleigh to roll the dice on the 6’2, 200-lb receiver.
It’s still early-on, but so far, Belichick looks once again like a genius. As savvy of a general manager and talent evaluator as he is a football coach, Belichick may have hit a home run with Meyers.
The young player already has earned numerous accolades and commendations for his performance throughout training camp; he’s made highlight-reel catches over some of New England’s top defenders, displayed an impressive affinity for mastering the complex playbook quickly, and developed a very real (and very fast) rapport with all three of the Patriots’ quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham).
On Thursday night, Meyers was easily the biggest and brightest star on a night that was positively filled with them (that is, if you’re a Patriots fan… not so much if you were rooting for the home team).
“I have to keep proving to my coaches that I deserve to be here,” Meyers told reporters after the game, via ESPN. “I’m not on the team yet. I’m trying to make sure I can stay here and continue to be here. That’s who I’m trying to prove a point to, not really to people who didn’t give me the call.”
So far, so good. Meyers caught six passes on eight targets for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Half of those receptions came with Hoyer on the field, and half with Stidham. Over and over again, Meyers outmaneuvered Detroit cornerbacks, linebackers, and safeties to find creative ways to get open and get his hands on the football.
The Patriots as a whole still have a lot of mystery and intrigue when it comes to their pass-catchers this year. Rob Gronkowski is retired, Josh Gordon is suspended, and Julian Edelman is sidelined with a finger injury. Demaryius Thomas and Cameron Meredith are also nursing ailments and potentially waiting in the wings. Beyond those five, the New England receivers and tight ends are all young and unproven.
Someone from that group is going to get their shot this season. It could be N’Keal Harry, Braxton Berrios, Phillip Dorsett, or Matt LaCosse. Each had their moments Thursday night, and each will have plenty more opportunities between now and the regular season opener to make their case for the Pats’ final 53-man roster… and for major starting opportunities this fall.
Just don’t overlook – or bet against – Jakobi Meyers. If he keeps this up, there might be no stopping his addition to the list of New England’s most unsung and unexpected heroes who overcame the odds to achieve lasting greatness.