NEPD Editor: James Christensen
Chad O’Shea, Patriots receivers coach, better get used to meeting a lot of new faces in 2013. After essentially swapping Wes Welker for Danny Amendola and Brandon Lloyd for Donald Jones, the Patriots certainly aren’t done addressing the receiver position this off-season.
What options are left in free agency and the 2013 NFL Draft?
Signing restricted free agents to offer sheets just doesn’t seem to happen anymore, despite earlier reports of the Patriots perhaps pursuing Steelers wideout Emmanuel Sanders.
Victor Cruz (Giants) and Danario Alexander (Chargers) are other restricted free agent options if Bill Belichick wants to break the mold. If the Patriots add any receivers in free agency, I would imagine it would be bringing back Julian Edelman or Brandon Lloyd to team-friendly deals. Darrius Heyward-Bey (Raiders) and David Nelson (Bills) are longer shots to join the team.
If free agency isn’t going to do the trick, which receivers from the 2013 NFL Draft might the Patriots target?
First Round Picks:
Other than Tavon Austin, who probably won’t make it past the St. Louis Rams, if I’m taking a receiver in the first round, it needs to be a guy who can play the “X” receiver position.
Hopkins didn’t “wow” anyone at the NFL combine, but his consistent routes, great hands and all-around athleticism makes him a relatively safe pick for a team needing a receiver to come in and contribute on day one. Even without 4.3 speed, Hopkins can separate down the field and is adept at getting off press coverage.
Hunter isn’t a great catcher of the ball, nor a top-notch route runner. However, his 6’4″ frame, plus speed and athleticism, and solid leaping ability will make him very tempting for a team that wants to stretch the field vertically. The Patriots will have to decide if Hunter will be more Randy Moss or more Chad Jackson. Personally, I’d stay away.
Allen has what it takes to be an “X”, but I see him as more of an intermediate guy than a true field-stretcher – even more than Hopkins. He could certainly surprise me though, as he has battled sub-par quarterback performances over his career at Cal.
Day Two Picks
On day two, you can pick up second tier “X” prospects, the top of the “Z” receivers, and guys that can play in the slot.
If I needed to sum up Markus Wheaton in one phrase it would be “Deion Branch with speed.” Out of all the receivers in this draft, I think Wheaton would be the first to gel with Tom Brady and “click” into the offense.
Most NFL fans have seen Robert Woods play over the last couple of years with Matt Barkley. Woods is a passionate player with great hands and the versatility to run a lot of different routes. Woods would be an ideal fit to replace Brandon Lloyd in my opinion.
Dobson is known for his incredible catches, but he has developed over the last two years into more of a complete receiver. He isn’t a blazer, but he can separate down the field and has worked to perfect the entire route-tree. The Patriots have had pretty good luck with Marshall receivers in the past (Moss, Troy Brown), it might be worth giving another one a shot.
In the late rounds, you are going to find guys with flaws that might be able to contribute down the line. Find a guy with an angle – Julian Edelman for example – and see what happens.
MarQuies Gray (Minnesota)
Gray was a college quarterback that also saw time at the receiver position. I think he’ll be a WR / TE joker in a similar mold to Aaron Hernandez. He didn’t time well, which might push him down to where the Patriots have a shot at nabbing him.
Davis was over-shadowed by teammate Marvin McNutt in 2011 and failed to carry the load in the Hawkeyes dismal offense last year. As a fourth or fifth option, an NFL team could jump at his potential to excel in an NFL offense.