After watching Patriots WR Kristian Wilkerson make some really nice grabs in the pre-season, it seemed that he might be in line to get some regular season playing time. The weeks passed as Wilkerson sat on the Patriots practice squad and didn’t get the call-up, even as WR N’Keal Harry struggled. Week 9 against the Panthers Wilkerson was activated, but didn’t see any action and then the same thing happened again last week against the Buffalo Bills. Finally, in week 17, we got to see Kristian not only get on the field, but show why he could be a key piece moving forward for the Pats.
Despite not playing much together in an NFL game in several months, the chemistry between Mac Jones and Wilkerson was evident against the Jaguars. Mac looked his way on 27% of this pass attempts (8), tied for the most targets in the game with WR Jakobi Meyers and was able to connect with him on 4 passes, including 2 TDs. He almost hit him for a big TD in the 2nd half, but the defender on Wilkerson hit his helmet breaking his concentration and the ball fell through his hands. For a receiver to get very few reps with the first team offense and then come out and have the performance he had against the Jaguars is impressive and makes you wonder what he could do with more time on the first team.
I understand it’s the Jaguars and they, well, aren’t good, but Wilkerson showed an ability to pull in some big catches and get some separation when needed. When you compare his performance with that of Sunday’s healthy-scratch WR N’Keal Harry, Wilkerson looked much more dangerous and able to make the crucial play. I’d much rather have Wilkerson on the field in almost any scenario. To Harry’s credit, his blocking has been his biggest asset this season, but when you need to gain yards and rely on a receiver to catch the ball, Harry has failed time and time again. If the Pats get a healthy WR Nelson Agholor back, the addition of Wilkerson actually make them a pretty deep group. With Meyers, Agholor, Bourne, and Wilkerson, they can move the ball around in lots of different ways and have different guys step up depending on coverage in the playoffs. When you add in TE Hunter Henry and RB Brandon Bolden as pass catchers, it’s a much more solid group with Wilkerson in the mix (TE Jonnu Smith intentionally left out).
After witnessing the performance of Wilkerson this week, there is now no excuse to continue to ride the painful-to-watch Harry week-in and week-out. Wilkerson gives you another dynamic piece you can integrate into the offense more thoroughly as the playoffs approach, now that a playoff berth has been locked-up. He’ll most likely match-up against a 3rd or 4th cornerback, which gives him a really good chance to make a handful of catches per game and maybe even be the primary target at times. On top of it all, he already has a deeper chemistry with Jones than Harry, so you certainly aren’t losing anything on that end.
With the high likelihood the Pats will play in a Wild Card game, having an additional x-factor will be huge in getting into the Divisional round. Even better, there is very little professional tape on Wilkerson, so it’s hard to fully scout him and understand all of his strengths and weaknesses. Now is the time to unleash another classic Bill Belichick undrafted free agent find, Kristian Wilkerson.