INDIANAPOLIS – While it's still really early in the process, there have been more than a few mock drafts that project the Patriots to take a wide receiver early. Some of those have focused on one particular prospect: Stanford's J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
That came as news to the 6-2, 225-pound wideout, but nonetheless his eyes widened when the possibility of becoming a Patriot was introduced.
"I haven't really heard that. I've met with them informally and we went over some film, but with the diversity of their offense and all that success that would be pretty special," Arcega-Whiteside said. "They do so many things offensively and at Stanford we ran a pro-style offense so maybe there are some things that translate. I know a lot people say they need some young receivers, so you never know."
The articulate Arcega-Whiteside brings a unique story to the NFL. Both of his parents played professional basketball in Europe, and he was actually born in Spain before moving to South Carolina at the age of 6.
His full name is Jose Joaquin Arcega-Whiteside, son of Joaquin Arcega and Valorie Whiteside. His uncles Fernando and Jose Arcega played basketball for Spain in the 1984 Olympics, and there was a time when it looked like J.J. would follow in his family's footsteps.
"I played varsity basketball in high school from the eighth grade all the way through," he said. "But football was always my first love. I'm as passionate about football as it gets. Football unifies people. There's no better feeling than scoring a touchdown or springing someone to score a touchdown."
While he put basketball behind him after high school, his extensive background in the game – not to mention some tutelage from his mother – has helped him improve as a receiver.
"It all comes down to technique," Arcega-Whiteside explained. "It's hard to jump over somebody if you're putting weight on his legs. That's what they teach you in basketball. You're going to put your hip on his quad, his legs and knees because it's hard for them to get up over you. You don't even have to jump. The ball's just going to come to you.
"My mom was a post player so she taught a couple of post skills. It all comes to the basketball background that I have."
Arcega-Whiteside has improved over his last three seasons, going from 24 catches in 2016 to 48 and 63 passes last year as a senior. He's always been a big-play target, averaging 16.4 yards per catch for his career, and 14 of his 28 touchdowns came in 2018.
His size and basketball background allow him to post up in the end zone, but some scouts question whether he runs well enough to succeed at the NFL level. That has led to some speculation that Arcega-Whiteside may become a tight end at the next level.
"Some guys joke about that – my strength coach says I'm a biscuit away from being a tight end – but that hasn't really come up with teams at all," he said. "But if someone wants to draft me I'll play anywhere you want me to play, coach."
Considered a possible second-round pick by NFLDraftScout.com, Arcega-Whiteside has also seen his name in the first round in some places. The Patriots apparent need at the position should make him a name to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.