Five Wide Receivers Unlikely to Be New England Patriots

Keenan Allen Patriots

Keenan Allen will have value to an NFL team, likely as a No. 2 possession receiver, but the New England Patriots are not the best fit.

NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope

The New England Patriots do not have many pressing needs going into the 2013 NFL draft, but the one position they absolutely must address at least once in the early rounds is at wide receiver.

Of the wide receivers to catch passes for the Patriots last season, the only one currently on their roster for the 2013 season is Julian Edelman, who is a versatile and athletic slot receiver but has issues with durability. The Patriots brought in a solid replacement for Wes Welker in the slot in free-agent signing Danny Amendola, but Brandon Lloyd was released while the only other significant wide receiver additions were Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones, neither of whom is a lock to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster.

The Patriots should continue to be strong in the slot from adding Amendola and bringing back Edelman, but what they need to do now is add some size, speed and playmaking ability on the outside. That said, given that the Patriots’ offense emphasizes the intermediate passing game over deep threats at wide receiver (with the Randy Moss years serving as an exception to the rule), the Patriots could continue to look at smaller, shiftier receivers at the right price if they have the physicality and route-running to succeed playing outside.

USC’s Robert Woods, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins, Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton and Tennessee’s Justin Hunter are among the most likely wide receiver choices for the Patriots in the first two rounds, but the Patriots should be considering a number of wide receivers throughout the draft as they should be in the market to add at least one in the early rounds and at least two total in the 2013 NFL Draft.

But although the wide receiver position is a major need for the Patriots, not every receiver in the draft class is a great fit for the New England Patriots. The following five receivers are unlikely to be among the wideouts the Patriots add to their roster in this year’s draft.

Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Back in the fall, Tavon Austin being projected to the New England Patriots as a replacement for Wes Welker was often a staple of my mock draft projections for the 2013 NFL Draft. That, however, was before the Patriots found a replacement for Welker in the slot with Amendola — and before Austin became widely projected as a top-20 draft choice and ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Now, it appears the only way the Patriots would be able to draft Austin would be to trade up significantly. His big-play ability would make him a value selection if he fell to the No. 29 overall pick, but he is not the best fit among receivers for the Patriots’ current needs, and with only three draft picks in the first three rounds, trading up for him would not make sense.

Keenan Allen, California

The Patriots have only drafted five wide receivers in the draft’s first three rounds since the beginning of the Bill Belichick era in New England. All of them ran pre-draft 40-yard dash times under 4.5 seconds, with the lone exception being Brandon Tate in 2009, a speed demon who was sidelined with a knee injury and did not run any 40s prior to that year’s draft.

Although all five of those receivers were busts with the exception of Deion Branch in 2002, it does show something about Belichick’s policy of drafting receivers: he likes them fast. That shouldn’t preclude the Patriots from drafting a wide receiver who runs in the 4.5-second range, but it could take California’s Keenan Allen off their board.

Allen is continuing to battle a knee injury that cut his junior season short, but even healthy, he is not a speed receiver. Combining his knee injury with the 4.71 40 he ran at his pro day (per, Allen does not seem likely to be a player high on the Patriots’ draft board, even with the size and physicality that the Patriots could certainly benefit from on the outside.

Hunter, Baylor’s Terrance Williams and Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton would all be better choices for the Patriots in the Round 2-3 range where Allen will most likely be selected.

Conner Vernon, Duke

There are many reasons why Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon may actually deserve more attention than he is getting. He was a very productive receiver in the ACC who has very good hands and runs sharp, quick routes.

Vernon, however, will probably be limited to the slot at the next level. Even at 6 feet tall, he is not much of a vertical threat due to a lack of breakaway speed, as evidenced by his 4.68 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine. For a team that already has two quality slot receivers and potentially a slower outside receiver in Michael Jenkins, Vernon simply does not fit what the Patriots need, and is also likely to fall in the Round 4-6 range where the Patriots do not hold any draft choices.

Ace Sanders, South Carolina

Ace Sanders was one of the SEC’s most dynamic playmakers for South Carolina over the past two seasons, but he is limited to being a situational player at the next level. He is a skilled slot receiver and punt returner, but he is very small (5’7”, 173 pounds) and does not have good long speed for a small receiver (4.58 seconds).

In Edelman, the Patriots already have a secondary slot receiver who can return punts and be used on running plays — the same role that Sanders should be drafted to play at the next level. Considering that, Sanders really doesn’t fit the Patriots’ needs, and like Vernon, he is projected to be selected in the Round 4-6 range where the Patriots currently have no draft picks.

Marcus Davis, Virginia Tech

At 6’3” and 233 pounds, Virginia Tech’s Marcus Davis has the size that the Patriots could really use at the wide receiver position, in addition to athleticism and downfield playmaking ability that give him big upside as an outside receiver.

That said, he is unlikely to be among the Patriots pursue in the 2013 NFL draft. His combine 40 time (4.56 seconds) is slower than what the Patriots typically covet in their wide receivers, but more importantly, he has inconsistent hands, lacks polish as a route-runner and is an unwilling blocker — skills that helped receivers like Deion Branch establish a long career in New England, but hurt receivers like Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson — all of whom were Round 2 picks for the Patriots, but with Branch being the only successful player of the trio.

If Davis is still available at one of the seventh-round picks the Patriots already hold on the draft board, they could take a chance at him based simply on his upside. There are other big receivers that could potentially be had late, however, including Rutgers’ Mark Harrison and Eastern Kentucky’s Tyrone Goard, who would be better fits for New England than Davis.

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17 Responses to “Five Wide Receivers Unlikely to Be New England Patriots”

  1. Ken W says:

    I think if the Pats walked away with one of these WR’s in the first or second they would get a solid WR and should go defense for the rest of there picks.

    1st DeAndre Hopkins
    1st Cordarrelle Patterson
    1st Robert Woods
    2nd Quinton Patton
    2nd Markus Wheaton

    • acm says:

      like the list except one – Patterson. He is a physical specimen but is not an accomplished route-runner and tends to find it difficult to get open. He is this year’s version of Stephen Hill, imo.
      I doubt Patterson falls to 29 but considering the complexity of the Pats offense – likely the main reason why a number of WR with good physical characteristics from previous drafts have failed to make an impact in it – and the high cost of a 1st round pick this year (in a year with fewer picks than ever, that 1st rounder is even more precious), I really doubt BB would take him even if he is available.

      In place of Patterson, I would add Dobson as a WR the Pats would be looking at in late 2nd.

      Personally, I think the one WR BB may consider taking at 29 is Hopkins. Regarding Woods, I think he would carry more of a first-half of the 2nd round value – same as Patton – than a first round one.

      • acm says:

        something I’ve mentioned earlier too – I think one other option for that 29th pick would be Tyler Eifert, who may be listed as TE but is a very athletic one and could be used as a big target WR, while at the same time making the team less dependable on Gronk’s inability to finish a 2nd season in a row.

        • J H TARBORO says:

          ACM a very good option, wasn’t thinking TE until you put it out there.

        • Ken W says:

          I agree with the Patterson comments and would definitely prefer Hopkins and Woods over him but if at 29 he was there and the Pats took him I would be fine with it because it would mean they think he can develop those skills and be a great weapon for them. Plus would just really like the Pats having a WR 6’4″ and crazy athletic.

          I agree with the Eifert situation also. Hernandez is more of a WR for them and having a Gronk and Eifert combo would be tough for defenses to game plan for and match up against. Pats are really good out of the 2 TE sets so why not add the best TE in this years draft to that. Brady is deadly accurate on short to medium passes and just imaging him being able to throw to those two monsters and Hernandez.

  2. J H TARBORO says:

    Austin not a great fit for NE. really! Dan Hope i hope you don’t really believe what you wrote, in our system other teams had problems with Welker, can you imagine the damage Austin could do with Brady throwing him the ball and his speed would open the field for our receivers and TEs. Stop with size issue, we weren’t talking that same stuff about Welker and Woodhead when we were winning. We should stop thinking conventional because we aren’t a conventional team, we do things others don’t do and we win, Personally i would draft Austin and because of his stature, he won’t go early as expected.

    • J H TARBORO says:

      Dan Hope, i still like your article, but disagreed. NEPD is the best site, and when you visit other teams sites, nobody is home, no debate, nothing.

  3. Henry Carmen says:

    It’s too bad you include Conner Vernon. Before we signed Amendola i thought he would be a perfect replacement for Welker (who’s departure was inevitable) after a trade back that acquired a mid round pick. Oh well

  4. Ryan says:

    Purely from a lack of interest Williams from Baylor could be the guy.

  5. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    Good job Dan Hope all of the guys you listed will not be Patriots. Markus Wheaton is our man at #59, or sooner if Bill moves-up in the second round.

  6. ChevSS says:

    Patterson, Wheaton, Hunter, Rogers, Swope, M. Harrison, M. Wilson, Boyce and Goodwin are the only prospects to satisfy at least 4 of BB’s combine/pro day performance requisites. Of those, only Wheaton and Swope satisfy all 5. Da’Rick Rogers came within 0.02 secs in the 40 (4.52) otherwise Rogers would have also been 5/5. Keenan Allen is a special case altogether. He is widely believed to be an elite WR with exceptional technical skills. His PCL injury hasn’t rehabbed as planned and he hobbled noticeably in his 40. I don’t believe for a minute he’s a 4.71 40 guy. The Pats had him in recently and had a chance to fully evaluate him medically. If Allen’s prognosis is good for a full functional recovery & if the Pats have the opportunity to draft him, I would be stunned if they didn’t grab him.
    Wheaton is my #1 do-it-all WR for the Pats in this draft. Hopkins or Rogers wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize though.

  7. Pete says:

    I think we see the pats move Hernandez to WR and pick up one of the top 3 TE in the draft in either the first or second round. They get a WR but not until late.

  8. AM says:

    Good analysis, although I disagree about Allen. Prior to his poor workouts, he was widely considered a top-20 pick; if he falls to #29, I would have to think that the Patriots would recognize the value there. They do have a history of not being scared off by players with injuries, both good (Gronkowski, Vollmer) and bad (Tate, Dowling). They also are fairly good at changing draft strategies for the right player (e.g., Chandler Jones). If they clear Allen medically, I think they would go for him.

    • cc says:

      BOTH – A-Hern & Gronk have big spells of “unavailability”……..Vollmer does now & has
      had back durability concerns and there’s alot more on the “pre-injury but drafted anyway” NE list…..unfortunately.
      If they take ANYONE with a pre-injury ANYTHING, on any draft night(s) I will puke.

    • J H TARBORO says:

      i disagree about K. Allen also, his trainer on NFL network at his pro day stated that he was about 75% after his knee injury.

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