On Monday, I took a look at the 2014 cornerback class. Today, the position of interest is the wide receiver.
As a reminder, the New England Patriots have their first round (29), second round, third round, fourth round, their sixth round, Philly’s sixth round, and their seventh round picks.
State of the Position:
Perhaps the most maligned position at least at the start of the 2013 season was New England’s wide receiver group. Danny Amendola was injured in his first start for the Patriots, and was never the same since, drawing ire from fans hoping he’d be the natural replacement for Wes Welker. Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson were likewise called out early, for what many saw as several costly drops. Julian Edelman, on the other hand, was a revelation, exploding in his first chance at a starting role for the team. Austin Collie and Josh Boyce showed up in abbreviated spurts. TJ Moe, a training camp standout who suffered a season-ending injury before preseason, could possibly be a breakout player this season. Overall, however, this is an undersized and banged-up group. With the possibility of Edelman leaving, the need for a wide receiver could be met on the free-agent market, but with a shaky cap situation, will probably be addressed in the draft.
What the Patriots Are Looking For: Well, first off, some height. With Gronkowski absent for most of the season, the Patriots passing in the red zone was a travesty. New England desperately needs a big target for Brady. After last season’s concerns with drops, a more sure-handed receiver might be more welcome than an uber-athleticism, and any wideout that doesn’t run crisp routes will undoubtedly suffer the wrath of Brady.
In Case He Slips: Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
The celebrated trio of Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, and Marqise Lee will almost certainly be gone by the time the Patriots make their first round selection, but one player who might slip to the Patriots is Florida State receiver Benjamin, who you might remember as catching the game-winning pass in the BCS Championship. The Patriots are looking for a big receiver, and Benjamin is downright huge, at 6’5, 235. Benjamin was a force of nature in the red zone for Jameis Winston and the Seminoles, with a fantastic catching radius and great speed for such a large player. The 23-year-old redshirt sophomore’s one glaring weakness is his route-running, where he is still very raw, but his athleticism and size may make him an attractive enough prospect to hope he develops.
2nd-Round: Allen Robinson, Penn State
Alright, so, spoiler alert, but Allen Robinson may be my favorite receiver in 2014 class, and the Patriots may not have to reach for him in the first. Robinson has a good-sized frame at 6’3, 210, and the former basketball player is a tough, physical receiver. In 2013, Robinson finished with 97 catches for 1,432 yards and 6 TDs in former Patriots coach Bill O’Brien’s offense. Robinson has good enough footwork to be deceiving in the open field, and physical enough to shed tackles as well. He also showed himself to be an active run blocker in his time at Penn State. Robinson isn’t a burner by any means, but he still has big play potential, and would be a nice counterpart to Amendola/Edelman and Dobson.
3rd-Round: Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
Again, fantastic name. An Amendola/Abbrederis receiving duo will ruin TV commentators. If only the Pats would trade for Seyi Ajirotutu as well.
Abbrederis is the quintessential Badger athlete, in that he’s not necessarily an explosive athlete, but is super hard-working, cerebral, and has the potential for magnificent facial hair. Abbrederis had a tremendous career with Wisconsin, with 78 receptions for 1081 yards and 7 TDs in his senior year. Abbrederis has steady hands, has tremendous footwork, and shows tremendous field awareness. The downsides are that he doesn’t have top-flight straight-line speed and he’s not exactly physically imposing (6’1, 189). But he would be a low-risk pick that could be a steady contributor if not an absolute game-changer.
4th-5th Round: Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
To be fair, at 6’6, 220 and coming from Rutgers, Coleman might as well put on his Patriots uniform now to save time. In his rookie season, he would already be one of the biggest receivers in the NFL, and has untapped athletic potential to boot. Coleman definitely would be a project, as he dropped a few too many passes at Rutgers, and uses his chest too often to make catches. With a minor knee injury bothering him, 2013 was actually a worse year for Coleman than 2012, but Belichick has undoubtedly watched tape on Coleman (especially with his drafting Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon last year) and if he even remotely impresses, he could be a steal in the late-middle rounds, even if he needs developing.
6th-7th Round: Cody Latimer, Indiana
Latimer is one of the more intriguing WR prospects who could fall to Day 3 in an uncommonly deep wideout class. He had a solid junior year for Indiana, with 72 receptions for 1096 yards and 9 TD, and impressed in games against Missouri, Penn State, Michigan, and Illinois. Latimer has good size, at 6-2, 215, and is an able blocker. The best aspect of the former Hoosier’s game is his hands, which are very good, and he has solid footwork and speed. He could do with some work in his route-running and doesn’t exactly have blazing speed. But there’s no real reason to think that, with the right team and QB, Latimer couldn’t be a productive receiver in the NFL, even in his rookie year.
Be sure to check my Twitter (@isportspeters) for more of this draft preview, as well as more Red Sox/Patriots/Celtics articles. As always, if there are any players who you think should be included here, drop me a line on Twitter or at [email protected].