NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones
This week, we’ll be taking a look at some positions the New England Patriots may target in the 2013 NFL Draft on a round-by-round basis, highlighting one potentially-available prospect who may attract New England’s interest in each frame of April’s draft. Today, we’ll begin by taking a look at seven wide receivers that could end up in Foxboro next month.
1. Keenan Allen, California*
A player such as Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson or West Virginia’s Tavon Austin would be appealing, but both players are projected to be drafted earlier in the first round; Patterson could go as high as sixth (Cleveland) or eighth (Buffalo), while Austin could go ninth (New York Jets) or fourteenth (Carolina.) Allen was considered the top receiver in the class for some time, but has been unable to participate in pre-draft workouts. Nonetheless, he could add a smooth intermediate target to New England’s offense as a direct replacement for Brandon Lloyd.
2. Stedman Bailey, West Virginia*
Some projections have players such as Tennessee’s Justin Hunter or Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton available this late in the round, but that’s difficult to imagine given their physical tools. However, New England may be able to add a player such as Bailey, who has outside experience in a spread offense and is capable of getting open deep downfield. Bailey caught 114 passes for 1,622 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, eclipsing more highly-regarded teammate Tavon Austin’s production.
3. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
Swope worked out much better than expected and could potentially be gone by the time New England is on the clock; however, he may last if teams trust what they saw on tape more than his timed speed. The Texas A&M product runs a variety of routes and is a dependable option on third downs, so he could work his way onto the field early in New England. If Swope is gone, Bill Belichick could potentially roll the dice on Texas’ Marquise Goodwin, whose timed speed has overshadowed his lack of collegiate production.
4. Kenny Stills, Oklahoma*
Stills is certainly a character, but could offer New England a reliable outside option if Brandon Lloyd’s antics can be compartmentalized in the Patriots’ war room. A 6’1”, 194-pound target, Stills erased concerns regarding his speed with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He is excellent at making catches in traffic, and has the competitiveness to work through press coverage, suggesting that he could be a fit at split end in New England’s offense, currently an area of weakness on the team.
5. Josh Boyce, Texas Christian*
Boyce opted to forfeit his senior season in order to enter the draft early; unfortunately, in a deep wide receiver class, he could easily slip to the third day. Although Boyce is prone to drops (as evidenced by his lackluster performances in Combine drills), he has the speed to threaten defenses down the field, as evidenced by his 4.38 40-yard dash time. Boyce also performed incredibly well in the cone drill (6.68) and broad jump (10’11”), suggesting agility and explosiveness.
6. Ace Sanders, South Carolina*
We touched on Sanders this past Sunday when discussing potential late-round fits; in short, he’s an undersized slot receiver who doubles as a dangerous return specialist. New England is still considered the front-runner for Julian Edelman’s services, but if he opts to sign elsewhere, the Patriots could target someone like Sanders to replace him. Danny Amendola has not been particularly durable over the course of his career, so someone like Sanders could be a valuable emergency option.
7. Marquess Wilson, Washington St.*
Wilson’s character will likely be subject to scrutiny after quitting the team during his junior season, but his ability to produce at wide receiver should not be questioned. Wilson ran a variety of routes, using his combination of length and deep speed to amass some eye-popping statistics with the Cougars; his 82-catch, 1,388 yard, 12 touchdown performance as a sophomore stands out in particular.