What can be done:
It’s pretty apparent that the Patriots need to alter their “organizational philosophy” and tweak their criteria for how they scout and draft the WR position. Especially in the last five years, the Patriots have literally swung and missed with every WR they have drafted. The lone exception would be Julian Edelman, who played QB in college, but I don’t really consider him a full time WR.
Here’s what I think the Patriots need to change when evaluating WRs.
1) The need to draft WRs who come from passing offenses in college, preferable one that has a pro-style passing offense.
2) They need to draft WRs who have had very successful college careers. Focusing on WRs who have caught a lot of balls, know how to read coverages and can get open.
3) Focus less on WRs who can return kicks. The Patriots “pigeon hole” themselves by focusing mainly on wide outs who can contribute in the return game. It should certainly be a plus if they are able to return kicks, but it shouldn’t be a disqualifier if the player can’t.
4) Draft a WR based on what they are and not what they “could be”. This year I would much rather see the Patriots draft a player like Jordan White over a player such as Stephen Hill. Hill “could be” an explosive deep threat and stretch the field.
However, White has caught hundreds of balls in college. He has been the #1 focus of every defense he has played, so he knows how to get open and makes plays. White has a much lower ceiling than Hill, but I would be willing to bet that White plays a lot longer than Hill.
5) Go after the top tier of WRs. Instead of trying to turn a prospect into a top WR, the Patriots could target and trade up for one of the top WR in the draft. In Michael Holley’s book “War Room” there was a discussion between Thomas Dimitroff and Bill Belichick about if he thought Dimitroff should trade up for Julio Jones. Belichick was against the trade and actually told him to stay put and draft a similar WR like “Jonathan Baldwin”. It’s that philosophy which can be frustrating to Patriot fans. It seems the Patriots seem to value WRs they can get later in the draft who may be similar to the top tier. When in reality that top tier WR is a much better prospect.
6) Put the WR they draft on the field early to “learn as they go”. I am a big proponent that at the WR position it’s much easier to learn the position if you are getting game reps. Seeing coverages, getting off jams and getting a feel for how NFL defenses are playing them are things that can only be learned by game reps.
Who fits the description:
The ideal fit out of all the WRs in this years draft would be Baylor WR Kendall Wright. He’s 5’11” and can stretch the field. He is expected to run fast at the combine. Wright has very good hands and goes and gets the ball better than anyone in the WR class. Other guys who fit based on what I think they should be looking for are:
Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd
Arkansas WR Joe Adams
Rutgers WR Mohamed Sanu
Toledo WR Eric Page
WMU WR Jordan White
Iowa WR Marvin McNutt
Arkasas WR Jarius Wright
All of the players I have listed have either caught a ton of balls in their college career or come from a pro-style passing offense. Any one of the WR’s would help. With the combine coming up keep a close eye on how fast these players run the 40 and how they do in the 3-Cone drill, that could be an indication of interest by the Patriots.
Tom Brady may only has 3-4 years left in his career, so this year more than any other Bill Belichick can’t afford to miss at the WR position.
Not only is the draft ridiculously deep at the WR position, but so is the free agent class. It’s absolutely essential to get Brady at least one more quality WR who can get on the field early. If the Patriots stick to their normal philosophy of drafting the types of WR they do, we could be right back in this situation next year.