WIDE RECEIVERS & TIGHT END:
Need Level: Low
New England completely reloaded at wide receiver by adding the explosive Brandin Cooks from New Orleans in exchange for their first round draft pick. With no comparable impact wide receiver likely available in the draft at that spot, the Patriots struck early in the offseason to add the impact, true number one wide receiver the offense has been missing since Randy Moss was shipped out of town.
The Patriots bring back Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell as well making each better with the addition of Cooks. Cooks should take coverage away from Edelman in the middle of the field making Edelman’s job easier. Hogan and Mitchell should also be able to get more single-coverage looks on the outside and increase their chances for a big play.
Another big surprise was Danny Amendola taking a pay cut of the third consecutive season to stay in New England. Amendola proved his worth in the playoffs and Super Bowl as one of Brady’s most trusted receivers. When in doubt, Amendola has parlayed his veteran smarts reading a defense and his on-field connection to Brady to make big receptions for first downs and touchdowns.
The addition of Cooks and reworking of Amendola’s contract seemingly squeezes Michael Floyd out of a chance to return to the Patriots. Floyd had some big plays for the Patriots after being scooped up off of waivers from the Cardinals following his arrest for extreme DUI. New England seemingly have made it clear they are moving on from Floyd.
At tight end, the Patriots anticipated that Martellus Bennett would not return and stuck quickly trading for Colts tight end Dwayne Allen. Allen is a top-flight blocker who has soft hands and is a threat in the red zone. With Rob Gronkowski seemingly on track to return at full health, the Patriots should be solid with those two two tight ends at the top of the depth chart.
New England has a gaggle of tight ends on the roster heading into training camp. Matt Lengel, Rob Housler, and Michael Williams are all back and fighting for what is likely one spot on the roster. Housler has the most experience and pedigree, but Williams has the most experience as a devastating blocker (he is a converted tackle) in the New England offense. Lengel is a big project who could stick with an eye for 2018.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, a wide receiver is unlikely. Other than the top two or three prospects, the crop of wide receivers have a lot of question marks. Last season’s seventh-round draft pick Devin Lucien caught the team’s eye in training camp and the preseason last year and is a potential replacement for Danny Amendola in 2018. However, with a strong tight end class, the Patriots could nab a young tight end to develop for the future.