When the 2012 season ended, the New England Patriots were dangerously thin at the wide receiver position. Brandon Lloyd was the only receiver under contract for 2013 that had caught a pass in 2012. That is literally “living on the edge”. Now that a part of free agency has passed, the Pats have helped their cause a little bit as they now have Danny Amendola and Donald Jones under contract. However Brandon Lloyd was released, so that leaves them in a similar situation as when the season ended. If healthy Amendola should have a pretty big year in 2013, and Jones is a young guy that has a lot of upside and hopefully he will be able to produce for New England. Even with the Jones and Amendola acquisitions, the Pats are still very thin at receiver. With just Amendola and Jones under contract, the Patriots offense is in a bit of danger as of right now. I don’t think they will start training camp with just those two on the roster, but they will need to act quick to add some talent to the receiver position before the NFL draft begins. The Patriots hate going into the draft with glaring needs at certain positions. That forces them to “overdraft” and select a guy that is not worth the pick he was chosen at. If the Pats resolve all major needs before the draft, then that allows them to really have fun on draft day.
Emmanuel Sanders is the guy the Pats should try and lock up. There have been a ton of rumors regarding him and the Pats, and hopefully he ends up in New England. Sanders is a restricted free agent, and if the Pats signed him, then they would have to give up a 3rd round draft pick. Losing a 3rd round pick is tough, but with Sanders’ talent, and the Patriots need for a receiver I think it would be worth it. Sanders brings a unique skill set to the table. He is a smaller guy, but he is very explosive and has the ability to take the top off of a defense. Sanders can play in the slot, and he can play on the outside. This would allow Brady and the Pats offense to get creative, and create a lot of mismatches for the opposing teams defense. One on one, Sanders is extremely hard to cover and if he is left on an island, he will almost always get open and make a play.
If Sanders were not brought in, then I think the Pats would be forced to go after a receiver in the draft. Donald Jones is a very solid player, but I do not think he is starting material quite yet. Eventually I feel that he can turn into a very good receiver, but right now I see him as a guy that comes in just on 3 WR sets. Luckily for New England this years draft class is very deep, and there are a lot of quality guys in later rounds for the Pats to choose from. Justin Hunter, Da’Rick Rogers and Marquise Goodwin are some guys that come to mind when it comes to receivers outside of the first round of the draft. All three of these guys have the potential to be solid receiver that have the ability to get deep on a defense, and this is the Pats main need at receiver.
A guy that I have been saying the Pats should try and sign for a long time is former Bills receiver David Nelson. Nelson is a big guy as he stands at 6’5 and the Pats could use a guy like him to help outside of the numbers. With Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Amendola on the inside, the Patriots have a loaded inside passing game. However, they have nobody on the outside that can take some pressure off of the inside guys and I think Nelson could help in that area, along with Jones and possibly Sanders if he is signed.
The Patriots offense is going to be fine. They have the best quarterback in the NFL in Tom Brady, and he still has a multitude of weapons to choose from. He even has a running game that he can rely on. I just think that their offense will be much better if another receiver is picked up. If it is someone like Sanders, then I truly believe that their offense will be ranked in the top three once again, and possibly number one.