New England Patriots 53-man 2018 Roster Projection v1.0: Wide Receivers

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 26: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots and Julian Edelman #11 during their game at Bank of America Stadium on August 26, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 26: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots and Julian Edelman #11 during their game at Bank of America Stadium on August 26, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

With mandatory minicamp right around the corner for the New England Patriots, here is an early look at what the team might look like at wide receiver.

Part one of 12 for the New England Patriots kicked-off with a look at the quarterback position and you can also find part two which looks at the running back position. Part three continued with a look at the tight end and fullback positions and now part four continues with a look at the wide receiver position:


Starter(s): Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Jordan Matthews

Back-up(s): Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Matthew Slater

Roster Bubble Boy(s): Phillip Dorsett, Cody Hollister, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron


Even after jettisoning Brandin Cooks and his 65 receptions for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns there is little panic in Foxboro. Cooks ran hot-and-cold in his only season in New England and his vertical stretching of the field and downfield routes seemed a poor fit for the precision passing offense. With Julian Edelman back to take those 114 targets, it is just another year with another wrinkle on offense for the Patriots.

Edelman’s return should be a boost to Brady’s health as he will be able to work the timing routes and get the ball out quicker on offense. Keeping a quarterback on the wrong side of 40 upright is something that has to be a priority in 2018. The loss of Danny Amendola will sting, but the hope is that bringing a different kind of slot receiver into the offense can offset that loss.

Jordan Matthews learned the valuable lesson in the NFL last year that Buffalo is where wide receivers go to die. After three highly productive seasons in Philadelphia, the slot receiver was shipped to Buffalo and injuries and misuse (let me just say it: “Tyrod Taylor at quarterback”) saw his catches and yards receiving go from 73 for 804 in 2016 to 36 for 282 last year. Another big target in the middle of the field frees up Gronkowski to attack vertical routes more in 2018 on offense.

Chris Hogan returns for the final year of his three year contract. Hogan was limited to nine games due to a shoulder injury and should be back to the intermediate-to-deep threat he thrived as in 2016. Behind him is a cluster of receivers fighting for one or two spots.

Kenny Britt has the size and pedigree to succeed in 2018 but showed little in a late season audition last year. He could surprise with a training camp to get on the same page with Brady. Ditto for Phillip Dorsett who had to jump into the offense just before week one. Dorsett never seemed to be on the same page with Brady but with his blazing speed there is promise of being a field-stretcher on the outside.

Next: 2018 Quarterback roster projections

Cordarrelle Patterson is the player the Patriots passed on and traded their draft pick in 2013 to Minnesota in exchange for picks which became Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan, Josh Boyce and LeGarrette Blount. It is safe to say Bill Belichick won that trade. Patterson will thrive as a kick returner (especially with the rule changes to make the play safer) and is good for being used for gadget plays (and those damnable end-arounds that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels calls three times a game it seems).

Malcolm Mitchell looked to be the future at outside wide receiver after his strong second-half of Super Bowl 51 in playing a key role in helping New England come back from a 28-3 deficit against Atlanta. However, Mitchell has not been seen on the field since that game due to recurring knee injury. Mitchell is no sure thing for the roster but if he is close to his 2016 form he should be able to carve out a role in 2018.

Matthew Slater is only at wide receiver on the victory formation, goal-line and short-yardage situations to block or on a trick play or in an extreme emergency. His roster spot is secure as a Pro Bowl special teams player.

Roster Bubble Boys:

Cody Hollister spent all of 2017 on the practice squad and would need to beat out Dorsett, Britt and Mitchell to get onto the roster. Braxton Berrios was considered a steal in the late sixth round of the 2018 draft and looks like another Wes Welker type receiver on tape. Riley McCarron came to New England’s practice squad after being released by the Houston Texans. He is small and quick and he would need to be a preseason superstar to force his way onto the roster.

Chris Lacy was an undrafted free agent from Oklahoma State who has been released in the middle of the voluntary offseason program. Last year’s stash on injured reserve Darren Andrews–a long-shot to begin with–was also released during the offseason program.

Next: 2018 Quarterback roster projections

Final Word:

At this juncture of the preseason, I have Britt over Dorsett and Mitchell making the squad. However, health and knowledge of the offense and potential role is going to be a big part of making the squad at this deep position. Berrios at this projection does not crack the roster and will have to be snuck to the practice squad with an on the 2019 roster.