Projecting New England’s Opening-Day Wide Receiver Depth Chart

Could undrafted free agent Mark Harrison make the final roster in 2013? (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones

In an effort to completely revamp their wide receiver personnel, the New England Patriots signed four significant veteran wide receivers this offseason: Danny Amendola, Lavelle Hawkins, Michael Jenkins, and Donald Jones. To complement those additions, New England drafted wide receiver Aaron Dobson (Marshall) in the second round of the draft, and Josh Boyce (Texas Christian) in the fourth round. Following the draft, the Patriots added three undrafted free agents at the position: T.J. Moe (Missouri), Kenbrell Thompkins (Clemson), and, most recently, Mark Harrison (Rutgers.) The nine aforementioned players will join returning Patriots Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater, and Kamar Aiken in what should be a fierce roster battle. This article will detail the most likely candidates for roster spots.

1. Danny Amendola

Of the players mentioned, Danny Amendola will likely be New England’s most prominently-featured wide receiver in 2013. Amendola received $10 million guaranteed as a free agent, suggesting a significant role with the team. Head coach Bill Belichick has indicated that Amendola will contribute both inside and outside, which should result in myriad opportunities. Only another injury would prevent Amendola from significantly outproducing his 2012 campaign with the St. Louis Rams, in which he caught 63 passes for 666 yards and three touchdowns; it may be unrealistic to expect Amendola to eclipse Wes Welker’s 2012 campaign, but it’s possible that he could approach 100 catches on the season.

2. Aaron Dobson

Although New England’s offensive scheme is difficult for wide receivers to adapt to, it’s still likely that Aaron Dobson will make an important contribution to the passing game in 2013, as he offers an outstanding combination of size, speed, and body control to complement his soft hands. In Dobson, the Patriots hope to gain a wide receiver whose physical tools are well-suited to an outside role; they have lacked an outside option with his physical tools since trading Randy Moss. Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Danny Amendola will be the most prominently-featured weapons in the passing game, which should allow Dobson time to develop.

3. Julian Edelman

Edelman will likely function as a reserve slot receiver in 2013, but should nonetheless be featured more prominently in New England’s offense than he was in 2012 (a season in which he caught 21 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns), especially in the event of an injury to Danny Amendola. Even if Amendola stays healthy throughout the entire season, the Patriots should be able to work Edelman onto the field by allowing Amendola to work on the outside. In addition to his receiving skills, Edelman is a dynamic punt returner and has previously worked as a defensive back in emergency situations, supplementing his value as a receiver. Of the wide receivers on roster, Edelman is also the most familiar with quarterback Tom Brady.

4. Josh Boyce

Because they drafted Boyce in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, it would come as a surprise if New England opted to release him before the start of the season. Boyce may have a slightly steeper learning curve than Dobson because he left school after his junior season, but he has some experience with option routes and may nonetheless make some contributions as a rookie. A strong receiver who ran a blistering 4.38-second 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine, he also posted tantalizing times in the short shuttle (4.10 seconds) and the three-cone drill (6.68 seconds.) If his hands look reliable prior to the start of the regular season, he could be integrated into the offense more thoroughly than anticipated.

5. Mark Harrison

The third rookie projected to make New England’s final roster, Harrison was not incredibly productive at Rutgers, catching 44-583-6 last season, but his physical tools may prevent him from making it to the practice squad; Harrison measured in at 6’3” and 231 pounds at the NFL Combine, then posted a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, 38.5” vertical, and 6.99-second three-cone drill. His upside gives him the edge over veterans Lavelle Hawkins, Michael Jenkins, and Donald Jones in this projection, who may offer more immediate production but lack Harrison’s long-term upside. The three aforementioned players should nonetheless increase the level of competition in training camp and throughout the preseason; it would not come as a surprise if one of the players were to make the final roster.

6. Matthew Slater

Slater may not receive much playing time at wide receiver, but his contributions on special teams should earn him a roster spot, making him the final wide receiver on roster in this projection. He has made the Pro Bowl in a special teams capacity in each of the past two seasons, and given Bill Belichick’s emphasis on strong special teams play, it would come as a surprise if he were left off the final roster in 2013. His primary competition for a spot may not necessarily come at the wide receiver position, but could be in the form of other effective special teams contributions at different positions, such as defensive back.

PS. T.J. Moe

Although Moe appears unlikely to make New England’s final roster in 2013, he makes sense as a logical practice-squad priority given his savvy route-running. While he lacks ideal top-end speed, recording a 4.74-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, he was able to compensate with outstanding times in the three-cone drill (6.53 seconds), vertical leap (36″), and short shuttle (3.96 seconds.) Both Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman have some durability concerns, so keeping Moe on the practice squad as an emergency option would be wise. Additionally, rookies Josh Boyce and Mark Harrison have dealt with foot injuries in 2013.

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27 Responses to “Projecting New England’s Opening-Day Wide Receiver Depth Chart”

  1. Ken W says:

    Way to early to tell but if I had to make a preliminary guess I would say…

    Amendola, Dobson, Boyce, Edelman, Slater will make it.

    Then there is one or two spots that are open for who ever has the best understanding of the system and clicks with Brady.

    That leaves Aiken, Harrison, Hawkins, Jenkins, Jones, Moe, and Thompkins.

    I think right now the inside track would have to be Jenkins, Jones, & Moe battling out for 2 spots.

    The rest go to Practice Squad or cut.

  2. td says:

    The big unknown is what guy(s) can grasp the read-route system of Pats and get on same wavelength as #12. Amendola is the one sure thing, the rest is going to come down to who gets the system. One would hope it’s some of the young guys: Dobson, Boyce & Harrison.

    Several could: Branch, Welker, Moss, Stallworth
    Several could not: Galloway, Lloyd, Price

    • MaineMan says:

      Actually, Lloyd “got” the Pats route system just fine and was very productive in his role as the outside possession receiver. Seems to me that his lack of athleticism and his attitude are why he’s no longer with the club.

      In 2007, Welker, Moss and Stallworth were all eased into things with a simplified version of the system at first (according to McDaniels himself), so one might reasonably expect that the current crop of new guys might be given a similar chance to succeed and grow into things.

      • MikeInMaine says:

        “athleticism”??? Lloyd is extremely athletic fercryinoutloud!! Did you not watch him make many catches that only about seven other WRs in the league could make?? He simply protects himself- so he doesn’t get hurt, so he’s available for the next play.. and the next.. more than most of us care for. We’d rather our heroes sacrifice themselves for our pleasure. Romans, Colosseum, gladiators, lions. And I don’t suck onto the tabloid rumorville speculation only “reported” in the whiny, finger-pointing Boston sports media about his having an attitude problem. It was ONLY that he wouldn’t come back at the rate of pay the Pats wanted to give him. Stop perpetuating assumptions and false accusations.

    • Rockdog says:

      I just had an idea as I read through this dribble. You know who might be the easiest person to adapt to a new system is TOM BRADY.

      Let’s get this out of the way first. Tom Brady is THE BEST QB EVER for me. Aside from being the premier field general, he is the best teammate and representative of the organization I could ever imagine. I could go on and on but I think my opinion of #12 is clear.

      I wonder if Patriots don’t make some adaptations to passing game to adjust for 85% turnover of the WR corp. Maybe the vertical game of Moss era will come back. And look out when Pats get a big lead. They can bring in 3 huge TE’s (Gronk, Ballard and take your pick of Hernandez, Harrison) and pound it and still be a threat to throw wth Gronk, Hernandez and maybe Dobson or Amendola outside. Will be a huge disappointment if this isn’t top offense in NFL again.

      Defense has a ton of young talent but need to gel quickly. Particularly, I think we need Safeties to improve greatly. I expect the brothers Wilson with McCourty to be an above average group.

  3. acm says:

    bar any injuries, I think Amendola, Dobson, Boyce, Jones, Moe, Jenkins/Lloyd (see a possible comeback and need some veteran presence) make the roster (+Slater, of course).
    Edelman on PUP, Harrison on PS.

    It may seem like one too many WR but in a year of re-inventing the WR corps, I think it may well be a necessity.

  4. CJ Sousa says:

    I played against Mark Harrison in high school so thatd be sick if he actually makes the final roster..

    But if i had to guess,
    Its Amendola, Dobson, Boyce, D. Jones, Edleman, Slater

    PS if possible Harrison and Moe, but I dont think they make it there after waivors.

  5. J H TARBORO says:

    Dobson, Boyce, Harrison,Amendola, K. Thompkins, and Moe!

    • CJ Sousa says:

      To JH Tarboro below me, K. Thompkins is intriguing and once a very highly touted recruit out of high school.. but never made it big in college. Theres 0 % chance he’s there with harrision, moe, dobson, boyce ( 5 rookie recievers is insane, Slater will be there too )

  6. Gob says:

    I really like Harrison. Another tall receiver for brady to throw to. I know Height is not everything, but it is important, and the patriots have lacked any WR’s with Height lately.

  7. Ryan says:

    1. I have no faith in Edelman, he hasn’t and can’t stay healthy. I think TJ Moe will ultimately have his spot. And he didn’t run a 4.74, from what I read it was a 4.68. Which is in the same realm as Welker and Ammendola. (source: nfldraftscout, cbssports)

    2. If Harrison is PUP’d I don’t see it as a good sign for him. Most likely means he can’t learn the play book.

    3. Boyce will most likely have a larger impact than Dobson this year. Dobson can catch, but he has trouble separating.

    4. Don’t count out Donald Jones, lots of talent, good size and speed. In a terrible offense he put up decent numbers. If he can pick up the play book, he could be a crucial piece of the offense.

    5. Lastly, if Jenkins continues to get lots of reps at OTA’s we are in trouble. Molasses Mike shouldn’t be on any team any where stealing reps.

    • Stephen S says:

      1 Yes it seems the Edlemen and Ras-I caught the same disease and can’t shake it. If they could stay healthy it would be nice.
      2 Good point on Harrison didn’t think of smarts and picking up the system but being from Rutgers isn’t similar or is that just the D
      3 Agree
      4 Who is Jones main competition for a spot Dobson and Jenkins
      5 As far as Jenkins goes it sounded like from the PFT boys on Tues that it didn’t go so well for him and didn’t take advantage of the reps he did get with Brady it may only be one day but not off to a good start

      • Ryan says:

        1. While I agree Edelman and Ras-I have the same disease. I would be hesitant to compare them because I think Ras-I could be one of the top talents at CB on our team. He was small physically coming out of VA, hopefully he had his head in the playbook the past two seasons while rehabbing. He is quick, tall and agile things that don’t generally come in a package at CB. Edelman has flashed but as a 7th rd pick I’d be willing as a coach to let him go for Moe if he can’t stay healthy.

        2. Regardless of his foot injury, there is a reason he fell to UDFA status (hotel gate being another). He has all the physical tools, if not elite physical tools. Yet he wasn’t productive at Rutgers, some want to blame QB play. We will see.

        3. Boyce to me, reminds me a lot of Mike Wallace. He doesn’t have elite height, but his explosiveness could warrant him to be used some what like mini Hernandez. Very surprised they picked him, he really doesn’t fit the previous mold for Pats WRs (however he is very smart, or so he says).

        4. Outside of Ammendola, Dobson and Boyce, everyone is competing. Whether they keep more outside guys or slots guys really depends on what they see talent wise. The Patriots did QUICK work on picking up Jones in the offseason. If his kidney holds up, I think he could be on the roster.

        5. Heard varying reports on Jenkins, many saying he was getting a lot of time with Ammendola and Brady. I hope he is just some what of a leadership example, I really would prefer he not be on the team. That being said we have turned regular or subpar players into great players. Mark Anderson…

    • Bill says:

      I like what BB has done . If you are not a good judge ofWR talent, then throw a whole bunch of them out the and see what sticks. I agree that Amendola, Dobson, and Boyce should stick if healthy. Why admit to wasting a pick. Certainly one of the veterans should stay, Jones or Hawkins. Ithink BB likes Edelman and his versatility and willingness to put himself out there. If they like Harrison, that’s about it for WR. They are going to have 4 TE, and 4 RB, 2 QB, and 9 OL. How much more room do they have?

    • MaineMan says:

      I wouldn’t be so quick to count out “Molasses Mike”. He certainly doesn’t have the speed that everyone seems to think is an *absolute* requirement, but he’s been an extremely consistent and wily outside possession receiver his entire career (including 2012 with “Christian Ponderous” throwing), is a much bigger target than Lloyd was last season in that same role and got at least 1.5 yds more YAC per reception. He also has a reputation for being an extremely capable blocker, which could be critical in an offensive attack that may continue to emphasize the run (note that Boyce, Donald Jones and especially Moe all put up well above average bench reps for WRs – Moe did 26 reps – which perhaps speaks to blocking ability as a highly-desired quality in Pats WRs).

      I could see Amendola, Dobson, Boyce and Moe with Jones/Jenkins battling for the “veteran outside possession guy” spot, Edelman and Harrison starting out on PUP/IR-return and either Aiken or Thompkins on the PS.

      Odds seem extremely slim that either Moe or Harrison clear waivers at the end of Camp.

      • JMC says:

        ( I agree that it’s ) Doubtful Moe or Harrison clear waivers if they are cut- I would expect that at least one of the FA Vets they signed makes the team- maybe they keep and extra on the 53 and cut numbers someplace else like RB or OL.

  8. Jim R says:

    I think there is some optimisim this year for our young core of WR’s. If half of the list produces they could produce some eye popping numbers again. Now teams will have to defend the whole field, that will be a problem.

    • Ryan says:

      Like every year Jim there is a lot to be optimistic about. Lets hope that the playbook doesn’t hit them too hard.

      • Jim R says:

        I agree that is the concern however I think 2/4 will produce from the group of Dobson/Boyce/Jones/Harrison. I also think that Amendola and edelman will not be relied on as much if they do. If that happens Then you could see those two guys play in @ 13/14 games.

  9. AM says:

    Agreed with Stephen S on Edelman possibly starting on the PUP list. I would also be very surprised to see none of the “second wave” of veteran WRs make the team instead of Harrison. Between Boyce and Dobson (and Edelman and Amendola, for that matter), the team has plenty of youth and upside at the position–what they are lacking is known steadiness. I think Donald Jones takes Harrison’s place on this list.

  10. Rob says:

    I think Kenbrell Thompkins has a good chance to make to PS even if T J Moe does make it on.

  11. Iceman says:

    I think Boyce will surprise a lot of people. He is a stud. Just because he left school a year early doesn’t mean he will have a tougher time learning the playbook.

  12. Stephen S says:

    Any possible surprises
    1 I’m thinking Julian E may start on the Pup list and that would open the door for TJ Moe who would unlikely make it through waivers to the PS
    2 Also may carry one more extra receiver in Lavelle Hawkins. If they do not carry the extra receiver then a PS who could make it through waivers would be Kenbrell Thompkins from Cincinnati

    • Trev says:

      I would love to see them carry 7 in order to keep Hawkins around too, but where do you trim another roster spot? We need 3 TEs (minimum), and I think it makes a lot of sense to carry 5 RBs as well (Ridley, Vereen, Washington, Bolden, and Blount). I supposed we could trim either Blount or Bolden, but then our depth at RB gets pretty thin since Washinton is mostly just a KR. Also, I like the idea of PUP listing Edelman because I too think that Moe would get snatched up by another team if we subject him to waivers…

      • Stephen S says:

        I’m guessing 4 TE’s (Gronk to start on PUP) and 4 RB’s(Bolden or Blount) with 1 on the PS

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      I agree NO way Moe makes it to the practice squad, another team will grab him. Thompkins may be a better choice to carry a WR on the P-squad, or Harrison. Moe makes the Roster. I also agree Julian starts year on PUP resevere list, as well as Gronk.
      Sadly I would not be surprise if Julian is cut, to play a role like Branch did last year, If no one picks him up.

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