The New England Patriots drafted Miami wide receiver Braxton Berrios in the sixth round of the 2018 draft. The stereotypes were all present: quick, agile, white slot receiver with good hands and route running. Many draft analysts called this pick weeks in advance, and when it happened it seemed Berrios could be of help early on.
New England had just dealt Brandin Cooks to the Rams and lost Danny Amendola to the Dolphins, so receiver was an area of need. They did have the likes of aging Kenny Britt and Jordan Matthews on the roster, but the loss of Amendola was what really concerned people.
With Julian Edelman sidelined in 2017 and suspended for four games in 2018, slot receiver depth was depleted. Enter Braxton Berrios.
After a very successful career at the University of Miami, Berrios projected to be a late round pick due to his of lack of NFL traits. His height was a concern, being 5’9″, and his catchability was also brought into question because of this. Scouts believed him to be good enough to potentially be a backup or on special teams, similar to what Julian Edelman projected.
Even with his negative characteristics, Bill Belichick obviously liked him enough to not wait until after the draft. He nabbed him with 210th overall pick, and must have had good thoughts in mind because he was the only receiver Belichick drafted. With Edelman suspended and not 100%, and Amendola cashing in, Berrios seemed to have a starting job staring him in the face.
Riley McCarron was the only slot receiver on the roster at the time, but Berrios seemed to have a better skill set. The preseason was going to be the ultimate determination on which slot guy the Pats would carry. However, that decision was made for New England, as Berrios got injured and was placed on Injured Reserve.
So, assuming he’s fully healthy at the start of OTA’s, what does the future hold for Berrios? He will have an opportunity to earn his roster spot, as the Pats only have Edelman signed for 2019. Although, this is going to change, with multiple receivers expected to be signed for next season. There are a few big slot receivers on the market, especially Golden Tate and Adam Humphries.
While Berrios will have his work cut out for him when these receivers are signed, he does have an advantage. He was able to learn the playbook and play with the offense for training camp last year. Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio also had some encouraging things to say about him:
“[He’s] an impressive kid,” Caserio said following the draft. “This guy’s really, really smart. He graduated in, I want to say three to three-and-a-half years, whatever it was. Played inside the formation at the University of Miami, really productive, really tough, good traits, smart, good quickness.”
While it is obvious the Patriots like his ability and potential, there simply might not be room for him. It is within the realm of possibility that Berrios could beat out some of the free agents or draftees mentioned earlier. However, the more likely scenario is Berrios ending up on the practice squad.
New England prefers to hang onto their late round draft picks instead of cut them, and that’s the foreseeable future for the former Hurricane. He has the traits and ability to maybe, potentially, be the heir to Julian Edelman’s throne. Of course, that hinges on Berrios sticking around for another 3-4 years.
Berrios could stay on the active roster in the meantime on special teams, similar to 2009-2010 Edelman. He would be the backup to the backup slot receiver, Dwight Schrute style, but he would be getting valuable reps. His punt return ability is also something the Patriots value greatly and could also land him a roster spot. This is less likely than the practice squad, but is still possible with how little depth the Pats currently have.
However, another question is: Could Berrios be cut?
The answer is yes, but winding up on the practice squad is still the biggest possibility. The Patriots had a similar situation with Austin Carr a couple years ago; Carr was an undrafted slot receiver but there was not enough room on the active roster. After a very successful preseason, New England opted to cut Carr rather than place him on the practice squad.
He was immediately gobbled up by the Saints and placed on their practice squad. Carr is now a productive player for New Orleans, and the Pats certainly could have used his depth in 2018.
Berrios is similar, and should be signed to the practice squad if he performs well. If he comes into training camp and tears it up however, there is a real possibility that his versatility could land him a spot on the 53. This would most likely be for special teams and depth reasons, but the opportunities would be there.
If he does not perform though, it is possible that he ends up on the practice squad. But being cut as apart of roster cutdowns is more than likely to happen if he does underperform.
So to answer the question, “Cut candidate or slot receiver of the future?”, it is easier to see the former. Berrios is going to have a ton of competition come summer time, and is still a sixth round pick. He does have special teams value, which could land him a roster spot. “Slot receiver of the future” on the other hand does not seem feasible at this point though.