The Patriots have a crowded group of receivers looking for reps and roster spots as OTAs continue this week, with Thursday’s session open to the media.
One of the more intriguing prospects is the undersized guy buzzing around in the oversized No. 55 jersey.
Braxton Berrios, a 5-foot-9-inch, 183-pound slot receiver taken in the sixth round after collecting 55 passes for 679 yards and 9 touchdowns for the Miami Hurricanes in 2017, has drawn the expected comparisons to New England’s list of accomplished players at the position.
Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola all thrived in the slot spot, and Berrios, the valedictorian of Miami’s business school, has studied them all and appreciates the connection.
“They’ve done an incredible job in getting handed their role and working it to a master level,’’ he said. “Obviously I’ve seen them, I watch them, I study them, along with a lot of other guys in the league. They’ve done an incredible job and I’m really excited to learn some things.’’
Berrios faces some serious competition. There are a dozen receivers on the field for practice (including Darren Andrews, who won’t play this season but is practicing as he recovers from a knee injury), including a pair of standout slot men in Edelman and Jordan Matthews.
Competition is not something Berrios has ever shied away from.
“One of the things about Braxton, obviously, is that he played in a good program and he was productive at a high level,’’ said New England receivers coach Chad O’Shea. “He’s a guy that showed competitiveness on the field and a lot of the traits that we want in a receiver. That’s where the evaluation starts for us at the receiver position. We really value the traits of a player and that’s very important to us.’’
Among those traits were speed and quickness (he clocked a 4.44 40 and a 6.72 in the three-cone drill at his pro day), toughness, and intelligence.
While acknowledging that Berrios could get lumped in with New England’s famous slot receivers, O’Shea warned that just because you play the same position doesn’t mean you have the same skill set.
“No player is the same,’’ he said. “So that’s the biggest thing that we stress to them is that play to your strengths, work on your weaknesses, and you’ll have a role on this team if you go out there and perform well in the role that we’re asking of you.
“He’s far behind, like all the rookies, but he’s going to work hard and do the best he can to close the gap on all these veterans.’’
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Another guy looking to improve and secure a spot — albeit as a backup — is quarterback Danny Etling, the team’s seventh-round pick out of Louisiana State.
Etling will benefit from extra reps during OTAs with Tom Brady expected to wait until minicamp to make his spring debut. Etling is focusing on using that extra work while also studying the playbook and film to get up to speed for summer camp.
“I’ll just keep trying to work hard and try to become the player I want to be,’’ he said last week. “That’s going to take a lot of work and continuing to work hard and just doing my job and learning what that is. The main thing is being more consistent.’’