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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Wed May 29 - 04:00 PM | Thu May 30 - 09:55 AM

Draft Profile: Javon Baker Poised for Impact on Patriots Offense

Fourth-round draft pick Javon Baker has an intriguing skillset that could be just what the Patriots ordered.

Fourth-round draft pick wide receiver Javon Baker.
Fourth-round draft pick wide receiver Javon Baker.

Javon Baker's intensity and confidence were apparent from his first video conference with the Patriots media shortly after being selected in the fourth round.

"Just come to the home stadium and bring your popcorn, as I like to tell y'all," Baker told the assembled scribes on Webex. "Bring your popcorn. I make people in wheelchairs stand up."

Baker's disappointment that it took so long to hear his name called was obvious, as the chip on his shoulder that had already driven him to college greatness grew in real time before our eyes.

Not often does a fourth-round pick generate much excitement but Baker's confidence was a breath of fresh air for a team and an offense badly in need of an influx of talent and playmakingability.

Baker hasn't taken an NFL snap yet, but already he projected the kind of seriousness and jaded disappointment that has spurred many past NFL rookies on to greatness. Those traits immediately intrigued Patriots fans who have long waited for the team's next game-changing receiver.

Diving into Baker's past, it's easy to see how he got to this point and why he has a chance to be that receiver.

Baker was born and raised in West Atlanta and made an instant impact on the football field when he got to high school, earning playing time as a freshman for KIPP Atlanta Collegiate before transferring to local powerhouse John McEachern High School in Powder Springs, where hecontinued to make major strides.

"I met Javon his sophomore year and knew he was special from the moment I met him," said McEachern's receiver coach Jake Burgdorf. "For one, his hands are huge and he's always been a great route runner. He's always had elite ball skills. I've had the privilege of coaching some pretty good receivers at McEachern High School and he was definitely one of the better ones for sure. He's not afraid to get to block. Some wide outs, all they're worried about is catching the ball. Javon, he wants to be a complete receiver and do everything, and so I can't say enough about how hard he works and what kind of player he is."

Baker's performance as a sophomore was enough to earn him early FBS scholarship offers from many SEC schools, including Arkansas, Auburn and Florida, as he continued to fill out and develop his game.

From his early days in high school, it was already apparent that football would be Baker's ticket.

"As a sophomore, it's been challenging in the past to get on the field at McEachern and he made some big plays for us his sophomore year and just continued to work and get faster," said Burgdorf. "That was always what people would tell him is, he wasn't fast enough and he continued to work and get faster."

After leading McEachern to three successful seasons, which included a 2019 regional title, Bakerlanded with Nick Saban at Alabama, buried on the depth chart by an elite group of wide receivers, many of whom have already been laying waste to the NFL, like Jaylen Waddle and Devontae Smith.

Despite dressing for 21 games over the COVID-shortened 2020 season and 2021, Baker registered just nine catches. In 2022, he transferred to UCF under head coach Gus Malzahn and flourished, putting together two outstanding seasons that helped him emerge from back-up to number one receiver.

"He gave us the ability that we put him on the boundary, played the field some, we moved himaround, but anytime they single covered him, I don't care who's covering him, he's got a great chance," said Malzahn of what Baker brought to his offense. "Just giving him an opportunity ball, don't overthrow him. And that's what he allowed us to do as far as our offense and play calling. And he's the type of guy that makes play calling easier."

"I was glad that he was able to find his way to UCF and really just put on display what he can do," said his high school coach Burgdorf. "And really, the thing for him though is he's still not reached his ceiling. He will continue to get better."

Baker not only made his mark on the game field, where he posted 108 catches and 12 touchdowns in two seasons at UCF, but also on the practice field where his fiery competitiveness consistently flashed.

"Just about every day in practice, he would make a wild play," said Malzahn. "One of those catches that you've just got to rewind, like wow. He's a quiet guy. He's a confident guy. He loves to practice and he loves to compete. I mean, I think that really puts everything together for him."

Baker's smooth athleticism, big play ability and physicality impressed scouts and raised his draft status. Five catches of 50-plus yards in his final season were a hallmark of his potential.

The biggest question facing Baker was his speed, a question that he had faced since high school. But a solid 4.54 40 time at the Combine, coupled with an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl helped allay some of those fears.

"I think some teams thought he might be a 4.6 guy, you know, so he ran low 4.5's, which is fine," said Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy. "[But] he was one of the fastest guys we had in Mobile on the Zebra Technology tracking, and that's what all 32 teams use too, so it's a good apples-to-apples comparison for those guys. I certainly think that that helped him and allowed the Patriots to get to a good comfort level."

"He has game speed and he has what I call strong speed," said Malzahn. "He's strong and he can get on top of people, he can run through people, and he's got a really explosive first step or two after the catch, he kind of bends down after contact coming off the ball. But now there's no doubt he's got game speed and you look on tape, even some DBs that can really run… he has the ability to get behind them.

With the departure of DeVante Parker this offseason there's a big need on the Patriots offense for an outside receiver who can pull coverage, make contested catches and generally give the opposing defense something to think about on every snap.

Baker's ability to do what was Parker's bread and butter – make contested catches – could make him an ideal candidate for the role.

"I loved Jakobi Myers coming out, I thought that Jakobi was gonna be a fourth-round pick and he certainly outplayed that, but that's the one thing you knew Jakobi had was you could put it up to him and he can make plays," said Nagy. "And so for Pats fans, I think they can expect the same thing out of Javon. He's a really good contested catcher."

View photos of Patriots fourth round pick, wide receiver Javon Baker in action at UCF.

"It's more like 80/20 with him," joked Malzahn on contested catches that are often considered 50/50. "I mean, he really is phenomenal with ball skills and setting a point, stacking DBs, and he's a really, really talented guy."

"He's just one of those guys that can make just insane catches look easy that most people can't do and I'm just excited to see what he can do in the NFL and with the Patriots and hoping the best for him," said Burgdorf.

Despite a strong senior season and a spring that answered many of the questions that faced Baker, it was a long wait until the fourth round when the Patriots finally called his name. Baker's agitation was apparent from his introductory press conference and continued on social media in the days after the draft.

It was clear that the Patriots were getting a player with high expectations and a newfound source of motivation.

"Usually everything works itself out," said Malzahn. "I just was telling him, the main thing is you get to the right fit. You get somewhere that you can be a factor early, and I think it's a perfect fit for him. All that is decided out on the field… you've got to go out there and play. And I think we'll look back and I think there's a good chance that he'll be one of the top receivers in this class, if not the top."

Now, with opportunity waiting and a renewed chip on his shoulder, Baker has the chance to make an instant impact on a team that would love nothing more than to see him take off in New England.

"He's a competitor. That's what I love," said Malzahn. "He thinks he's the best, and I think you have to have that edge to you. So he'll carry that, and the thing about him, he loves football, he loves to practice, he loves to compete. I think he's got a chance to be a really, really specialreceiver in the NFL."

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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