Nov 18, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots punt returner Julian Edelman (11) carries the ball during a punt return in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots won 59-24. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Entering the offseason, the New England Patriots most glaring need was at wise receiver, even with Wes Welker still on the team. Then Welker left, and that glaring need, became an alarming need. The Patriots responded by giving Danny Amendola at 5 year, 31 million dollar deal, and then added depth with former Bills WR Donald Jones and Vikings WR Michaels Jenkins. They also addressed the need in the NFL Draft by selected Marshall WR Aaron Dobson with the #59th pick, and then they selected TCU WR Josh Boyce with the #102nd pick. Add Missouri WR TJ Moe and Cincinnati WR Kenbrell Thompkins as UDFAs, and now there is a bit of logjam at the position. With only a few players guaranteed to make the final roster, I give you my prediction as to who will make the 2013 Patriots at wide receiver.
1. Danny Amendola- This is one of the few guarantees that we will see make the team, barring something completely unforeseen. Amendola came from St Louis on a pretty hefty contract when Wes Welker left for Denver, making him the frontrunner for the #1 wide receiver slot in the Patriots offence. He’s an excellent route runner, doesn’t mind going over the middle and drops are of little concern with only two drops last year. Other than that, he doesn’t bring much else that Wes Welker didn’t bring last year, getting past his man on the sideline is something Patriots fans shouldn’t expect, and he has been injury prone, only playing 12 games in the last two years. But he is the best wide receiver the Patriots have on the roster right now, and his new contract should guarantee his spot on the team.
2. Julian Edelman- Among the current wide receivers on the Patriots roster, Edelman is the longest tenured, not including Matthew Slater who is primarily a special teams standout. Edelman started to become a big time weapon in the Patriots offence before he suffered a foot injury and was put on injured reserve for the playoffs. Edelman can be a very dangerous weapon when healthy, not only in the passing game, but running reverses and returning punts and kicks. He’s the most versatile wide receiver on the roster, so it’s likely that we see him make the team, coupled with the fact that he knows the playbook well, Julian Edelman should be on the final roster.
3. Aaron Dobson- Dobson was the first wide receiver the Patriots selected in the NFL Draft. Dobson is the kind of player that Patriots fans have been clamoring for years. At 6’3, he’s the got the size and speed to get over the top of a defence, and make catches over smaller defenders. At this time, Dobson is still very raw, and will need a lot of work and may not make a huge impact this season, but he is the ideal wide receiver everyone involved with the Patriots have been hoping for. Being a second round pick, he’s pretty much guaranteed a spot on the team. You don’t pick someone that high, and then release him without any return. Lets just hope he doesn’t become another in the long list of wide receiver failures that have been drafted in the Belichick era.
4. Donald Jones- Jones came from the Buffalo Bills as a free agent on a 3-year deal, and can provide quality depth at the position. Last year Jones caught 41 passes for 443 yards and 4 touchdowns, career bests across the board on a team that struggled through the air outside of Stevie Johnson. Jones may not be among the more popular picks to make the roster, but I would like to see him be given a real shot at producing in the Patriots offence. At 6’0 he may not be the most physically imposing receiver out there, but he’s got pretty good hands and can bring solid production without much of a cost. Jones is the first receiver on this list that isn’t guaranteed anything; he could make the team if he impresses in camp and in pre-season games, but if the coaching staff doesn’t see anything of value, he could just as easily be gone.
5. Josh Boyce- Boyce was the second wide receiver selected by the Patriots in the 4th round of the NFL Draft. He’s not the biggest wideout, but has impressive speed, clocking a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Boyce can be another one of those Patriots wide receivers who can be deadly going underneath defences and making things happen after the catch with his speed and elusiveness. His former High School coach who compared his athleticism to former players Robert Griffin III and Charles Tillman, also praising his work ethic, saying he’s constantly in the gym getting stronger, gave him a ton of praise. You have to take comments like this one with a grain of salt, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know that he’s got a great attitude and has great athleticism, something that’s always welcomed on any team. Boyce wasn’t the most touted wide receiver in this years draft class, but he could provide well this year if given a chance.
6. Michael Jenkins- This last spot was a bit of a tossup between Jenkins and undrafted free agent TJ Moe. I gave it to Jenkins solely based on his experience in the NFL. Rarely do you see a ten-year veteran get beaten out by an unheralded, undrafted rookie like Moe. Jenkins simply provides depth, and valuable experience to the younger wide receivers on the roster, like Dobson and Boyce, and can provide a catch or two in a pinch. Jenkins won’t be lighting the world on fire, but he’s a solid final option, and can be cut if something is seen in a player like Moe.
This is my prediction for the final roster as of right now. Of course things can change quickly, especially on a team like the Patriots who aren’t afraid to make plenty of cuts. We could see more wide receivers brought in for depth; we could even see Brandon Lloyd make a return. Lloyd didn’t have the year many hoped he would, but he’s a good second or third option and knows the playbook already. These are just my predictions, and with lots of time till we see players report, expect changes. Feel free to comment below on players you would like to see make the final roster, or free agents you would like to see come into camp.
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