Patriots draft Ja’Lynn Polk: How the Washington WR fits, pick grade and scouting intel

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Patriots draft Ja’Lynn Polk: How the Washington WR fits, pick grade and scouting intel

The New England Patriots selected University of Washington wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk with the 37th overall pick in the second round of the 2024 NFL Draft. The Patriots were at No. 34 to begin the night, but they traded that pick and a fifth-rounder (137) to the Los Angeles Chargers for pick No. 37 and a fourth-rounder (110).

The 6-foot-1, 203-pound receiver started his college career at Texas Tech but transferred to UW where he was a three-year starter with the Huskies. He has experience playing both outside and in the slot. He broke out as a senior on the Washington team that reached the national championship game, totaling 69 receptions for 1,159 yards and nine touchdowns in 2023.

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‘The Beast’ breakdown

Polk ranked No. 74 in Dane Brugler’s Top 300 big board. Here’s what Brugler had to say about him in his annual NFL Draft guide:

“Polk must continue developing as a route runner, but he is a natural athlete addressing the football with three-level instincts and pro-level toughness. A potential NFL starter, his game is reminiscent of Josh Palmer’s when he came out of Tennessee.”

Coaching intel

What an anonymous NFL receivers coach had to say about Polk in Bruce Feldman’s draft confidential:

“I like ’em both (Polk and fellow Washington wideout Jalen McMillan). Polk’s a little more rugged with the ball in his hands than McMillan. I think he’s best in the slot, but he can also play outside. McMillan is a little less twitchy and more of a glider. He’s really good in the slot. I would be surprised if all three Washington wide receivers didn’t play for a decade in the NFL. Playing in that system really will help them translate to the NFL.”

Why he’s a second-round pick

Polk had a career year in 2023 as Washington’s secondary receiving option (behind Rome Odunze) for Michael Penix Jr. With his adjustment skills and hand-eye coordination, Polk doesn’t require perfect ball placement when targeted, regardless of the route or depth. He can comfortably gear up and down, but he needs to fine-tune his press and break-point skills. — Brugler

Scott Dochterman grades the pick

New England needed a threat at receiver for new quarterback Drake Maye and it picked up one with Polk. Tough and competitive but lacking top-end speed, Polk is not afraid to block or make tough catches over the middle. This was probably a bit high for him, however.

Grade: C+

How he fits

The Patriots needed a weapon for Maye, and they love two aspects of Polk’s game that they think will be valuable in this rebuild. First, Polk plays bigger than his size (6-foot-1) with long arms and a big catch radius, which helps him bail out some throws that aren’t perfectly placed. With a quarterback like Maye who occasionally struggles with accuracy, that’s really important. The second is that the Patriots are valuing high-character, tough players with this new regime. Polk drew rave reviews about his work ethic from Washington coaches and teammates.

Rookie impact

Even if Polk had a third-round grade from Brugler, he’ll have a chance to make an immediate impact. The Patriots’ group of receivers ranks among the bottom in the league, so Polk will have every opportunity to carve out a starting role from day one. It helps, too, that he can play on the outside (59 percent of his snaps last season were there) since so many other New England wide receivers are at their best in the slot.

Depth-chart impact

Polk could end up anywhere from the No. 1 to No. 5 receiver on the depth chart and it wouldn’t be a shock. His position versatility gives him a leg up, though, since Kendrick Bourne, Demario Douglas, K.J. Osborn, and JuJu Smith-Schuster all play well from the slot. The biggest thing for Polk is that his ability to bail out imperfectly placed passes will give him a good chance to earn plenty of playing time as the Patriots work through their quarterback situation.

They also could have picked …

Adonai Mitchell is the name that is going to stick out. The wide receiver from Texas may have more off-field concerns, but he has a lot of what Polk doesn’t. Mitchell ran a 4.34-second 40 compared to Polk’s 4.51. The Patriots don’t have a great track record of picking wide receivers (even if that was with a different decision-maker), but it’s telling that they took the steady and trustworthy Polk instead of a flashier but risky prospect like Mitchell. The Patriots also could have addressed their left tackle situation and gone with Patrick Paul or Kingsley Suamataia.

Fast evaluation

The Patriots wanted a well-rounded wide receiver with high character who is a willing blocker, and they got that in Polk even if he doesn’t come with the speed some may have preferred. He may not project as a No. 1 wide receiver, but he’s someone who can be a capable safety net for a rookie quarterback.


(Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)