New England Patriots: Now What At Receiver?

Nov 22, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick prior to the game against the New York Jets on Thanksgiving at Met Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

As you probably have heard, today the Pittsburgh Steelers matched the Patriots offer on receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Now, Sanders will be playing for Pittsburgh in 2013 instead of the Pats. The Patriots do get to keep this years third round pick, and they save a bit of cap space in the process. But in my opinion  this is a big blow to New England.

As of right now, the weakest part of the Patriots offense is by far at wide receiver. They have Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Donald Jones, Michael Jenkins, and Matthew Slater under contract. Do any of those names scare you? I didn’t think so. With the exception of Amendola, I don’t think any of these guys are capable of being solid starting receivers for the Patriots. I love Edelman and Jenkins, but Edelman is more suited to be a third receiver in an offense, and at this point in Jenkins’ career he is pretty much a fourth or fifth receiver. This leaves the Pats in a bit of a predicament. With tight end Rob Gronkowski’s availability for the start of the season in doubt, the Pats are relatively low on quality offensive weapons. At this point in free agency, the only feasible way to add weapons would be through the NFL draft. With this being said, I hate receivers being drafted high in the draft, just because in general they are very risky picks. However, in this years draft class there are a lot of quality prospects available for the Patriots to choose from.

Justin Hunter is the first guy I would like to see the Patriots draft. Granted, he is projected to be a high second rounder at this point, but I think he has the potential to be great. The Patriots need a big receiver that has the ability to take the top off of a defense. That is the main thing (and only thing) missing from the Pats offensive attack. I think that Hunter could fit perfectly into this role. Hunter is a 6’4 and he runs a 4.36 40 yard dash time. That is pretty damn impressive. Now he is only around 196 pounds and that can present some durability issues and that is one of the risks the Pats may have to be willing to take. He also is very raw, but I think the Pats can really develop this guy into an explosive player in this league.

Two other guys I really like, and think the Pats should draft are Marquise Goodwin of Texas and Markus Wheaton of Oregon State. Goodwin is projected to  go around the fourth round, while Wheaton is more of a second or third round projection. I know a lot more about Goodwin because he went to Texas and I watch pretty much every Texas football game. Goodwin is very explosive, as he ran a 4.21 40 time at the University of Texas pro day. He can really take a top off of a defense if given one on one coverage. He also has very good return skills and can take two yard screen passes and turn them into 90 yard touchdowns. He is a very raw route runner and is very small at 5’9 and 170 pounds, but his ability to take it to the house every time he touches the ball is enough to give him a shot in my opinion. Wheaton is not nearly as explosive as Goodwin, but I think he is a much better receiver prospect. He is a much better route runner, and is just a more polished product. He knows how to get open, and can handle press coverage better than most college football players can. He is fast as well as he ran a 4.40 40 time at Oregon State’s pro day, and while that is not as fast as Goodwin, it is still very impressive.

I know it is just April, and I shouldn’t be freaking out about the receiver depth, but I am. The Patriots pride themselves on their offense, and while I am very optimistic about the defense for 2013, I still think that the offense will be the strength of the team. If they aren’t able to improve their receiving core then, I really doubt that this offense will be as elite as it has been over the past few years. This could create a lot of problems in New England. I trust in Belichick, and I am sure that they will address this situation, but I really hope that they do it sooner, rather than later. The sooner they take care of this then the sooner they can focus on the defensive side of the ball, which despite all of the moves the Pats have made, still needs help.

 

Topics: Justin Hunter, Markus Wheaton, Marquise Goodwin, New England Patriots, NFL Draft

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  • http://sbpra.com/paulvsuffriti Paul V. Suffriti

    “I really doubt that this offense will be as elite as it has been over the past few years.” What? Who were the Pats deep threats during those years? They have had a short passing offense for awhile. They will still be able to score 30+ points on offense this year. Pats have a good running game with RBs coming out of the backfield. Pats should still get a WR that can spread the field. Maybe in the 2nd or 3rd round of the draft. CB in the first round.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      Paul, you hit the nail right on the head with the comment about the rushing game. The emergence of Ridley as a true feature back gives the Pats their first feature back since Dillon, and we’re in a better position with Ridley than we were with Dillon for sure due to Ridley’s youth. The Pats still have a good stable of backs behind him as well, and the balance on offense is going to ease the pressure off of the Pats. However, I would still like to see this team draft a wide receiver who can stretch the field, because it’s going to help the Pats in the long run (and in the short-term). The passing offense might not be as elite as it has been, but I agree that the offense as a whole is still fine. But let me ask you something, do you really think Danny Amendola, Donald Jones, and Julian Edelman is the best top three at WR? I would like to have a guy like Hopkins or Hunter to add into the mix, but it isn’t devastating by any means if the Pats stand pat at WR. I just think it is better for the Pats to add another wideout, and isn’t that why the Pats decided to offer Sanders in the first place?

      • http://sbpra.com/paulvsuffriti Paul V. Suffriti

        Amendola will quickly make us forget Welker. He has great potential as an inside and outside threat (not worried about his past injury history). Pats will use him in different formations to create mismatches. Donald Jones may be the surprise WR this year. With the addition of Ballard on offense we may see more three TE formations to keep defenses wondering if it will be a running play or a disguised pass play. I agree that the Pats are in need of a true deep threat to keep the safeties honest. Hunter would be a good choice but may need time to develop. Pats offense will still be explosive with or without a true deep threat. I expect the Pats to draft a CB, DT or DE and a WR in the first three picks.

        • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

          Well said, Paul. I completely agree with you here, and I hope you are right about Amendola. Although I am not forgetting about Welker anytime soon, Amendola is a fine WR, and I love his inside-outside ability as well (Hernandez is another inside-outside guy, Edelman as well).

          • unclealfie

            I’m taking the wait and see attitude about Amendola but the current roster at WR scares me a lot. They may be marginally effective as is but what happened when the injury bug visits? Amendola, Edleman and our two top TEs all shown themselves to be extremely fragile. I agree that these guys along with one speedy guy yet-to-be-determined could be a decent WR corps but we need at least two backup/developmental guys on the roster as we’d only be one hamstring away from a disaster.

  • khingjay

    Damn why is everyone underrating Julian Edelman. He took over well when Welker was injured in 2010. So he is definitely a possible #1/#2 WR because he can do what Welker does, break more tackles, gain more yards after the catch, and is an awesome PR & RB at times.
    With Amendola and Edelman both on the field all they need is a WR to stretch the field like Aaron Dobson or Terrance Williams. So I don’t care if any defense is not scared of them but they should be because Edelman and Amendola are gonna surprise a lot of teams if they are not paying attention.
    Not to mention our TE core of Gronkowski, Hernandes, Ballard, Hoomanwanui, and Sherman. Come on we don’t have that much to worry about right now with the offensive corp that we have. What the Patriots have to worry about it the offseason and if Edelman and Gronkowski are gonna be healthy. If they can do without Gronk for half the season I would be fine with him being out til the week 8 so that he can make it to the Playoffs and stomp any team we go against including the Broncos.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      Sherman? Who is that? Daniel Fells (underrated TE btw, great blocker). I don’t think everyone is underrating Edelman, because most Pats fans value Edelman accordingly. He has a chance to have a breakout year if he can stay healthy, because he is headed for a bigger role. I’ve praised Edelman in this space plenty in the aftermath of his re-signing. Edelman’s speed has improved so much that he is a legitimate playmaker imo (showed it last year). Williams is too much of a one-trick pony for me, not a well-rounded player. Now Dobson, he’d be something for the Pats. The Pats TEs are so great that they make up for a lot, and they do have five TEs who are at least “quality TEs”. I would like to see the Pats add another receiver to stretch the field and mess with the opposition’s safeties, and that’s the final piece to me. If the Pats can add that, then the passing game will be cruising. Great comment.

      • khingjay

        I meant to say Brad Herman sorry he was one of the Patriots picks last year.
        On the note of Daniel Fells, yes his blocking is good but it was taken over by Michael Hoomawanaui because his production went down dramatically. So Daniel Fells to me is to be used for only blocking and should not be paid $1,000,000 dollars just for that when Hoomanwanui can do his job better and Gronkowski is coming back.

        Edelman has showed what he is capable of, which is being very talented at the WR position. This is his year without Welker on the team to show what he is capable of.

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