Kendrick Bourne is most underrated player on Patriots

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

Kendrick Bourne laughed a lot during his 2021 career year, his first in New England. Jim Davis / Globe Staff

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

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

“With a career high of 74 goals, Bourne has fallen well short of the 100-catch and 1,000-yard benchmarks that receivers deserve the most attention. But even Cooper Kupp or Davante Adams couldn’t match Bourne for efficiency last season,” Spratt wrote in an article for ESPN.com that chose the most underrated player on each NFL team.

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

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

Bourne was simply a slam-dunk purchase in the 2021 outdoor season after not getting a chance to fully showcase his skills in a crowded San Francisco 49ers wide receiver group to start his career, Spielberger wrote. Reached career highs across the board in 2021: a 75.2 receive rate, a 3.5% drop rate, 1.99 yards per route, 7.2 yards after catch per reception, and 55 receptions for 800 yards. using a commission approach at wide receiver, which is something they are very familiar with and comfortable with, but Bourne has built a significant role and great chemistry with quarterback Mac Jones.”

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

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

†[Bourne’s highlight] His performances aren’t necessarily typical of his weekly role on the offensive, but the former 49ers squad have hit more than 78% of their goals this season,” Barnwell wrote. “NFL Next Gen Stats has its projected catch rate of 67.4%, meaning it is performing nearly 11% above expectations. That’s the third-best mark in the league, behind only Christian Kirk’s and [Tim] Patrick.”

Since Bourne was clearly a favorite of rookie quarterback Mac Jones in 2021, he wants to build on the momentum the duo built in their first year together in their sophomore season.

“Just a lot of confidence, man,” Bourne told NESN’s Zack Cox in June about feeling like he and Jones are heading into the 2022 season. “Just 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 know what’s going on.

†[Jones] is over that rookie wave, and now it’s on its sophomore year. It gets better, man. For myself, for many of us new guys entering their second year. So it will be exciting.”

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

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