New England Patriots: 2014 NFL Draft Preview – Wide Receiver

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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:

TJ Moe

TJ Moe

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.

 

THE TALENT:

 

In Case He Slips: Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

1389073524000-c01-newfinal-07The 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

download 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.

images (1)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

download (1)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

527edc3fbd3bcLatimer 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 isportspeters@gmail.com.

 

  • Rocky Reigns

    The Patriots indeed have available weapons n the draft and there is raw.talent waiting to make big impacts. Obviously their huge need is at WR and they should snag a stud of a WR either Mike Evans Kelvin Benjamin Brandon Coleman or Allen Robinson. I see them drafting either Evans or Benjamin either 1 of them would be an exceptional fit for Brady as a weapon because of their mentality of going up and getting it.

    • Alex Peters

      Agreed. Though I think a big move tight end is accomplishing the same thing, especially the Ebron/Amaro/Niklas types. You combo one of those with an Allen Robinson (who’s more of a bruising possession player a la Anquan Boldin) and you’ve added two huge weapons for Brady.

      • Rocky Reigns

        Agreed as well but I believe in Tight End Ebron Amaro will be gone in the 1st round but maybe the tight ends that they should target is C.J. Fierdowicz or Austin Seferian Jenkins in the Y & Z to complement X tight end Gronkowski. Y tight end would be Fierdowicz because of his catching blocking ability and big body in 6’5 265 would be a good redzone target for Brady. Seferian Jenkins would be the Z tight End his blocking ability could use work his catching ability is essential and big body and route running at 6’6 275 would be a nightmare for the middle with Gronk.

        • Alex Peters

          Agreed, though I bet Belichick is raring for another Hernandez hybrid type, since that two tight end set was unstoppable at times. I wrote this up a couple days ago (http://isportsweb.com/2014/02/01/new-england-patriots-drafting-tight-end/) but there do seem to be two distinct types of TE in this year’s draft class, and I’ll be interested to see which way NE goes.

          • Rocky Reigns

            Well said but I think I’m going to go further with it I’m going to say the Pats stock up and double dip at WR & TE for me I believe the defense can hold it’s own with Jerod Mayo Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. They should mainly focus on offense in the draft and in thr Free Agency and to focus on giving Tom Brady the desired weapons that he solely desires and deserves. They really should target Kelvin Benjamin and Brandon Coleman both are big physical receivers and can catch the ball exceptional and draft either Fierdowicz & Seferian Jenkins they really should try and load up as much weapons as possible because they can really turn to form and really be a force to be reckoned with. The Pats are a well prepared team probably the most prepared team in the league now but they really should stockpile on weapons to make sure they can have guys who can make plays when their jersey is called upon

          • Alex Peters

            Absolutely agree. Not to spoil anything, but in the mock I’m writing for Monday, I do indeed have them double-dipping at both WR and TE, filling in some small defensive holes, and maybe going for a late-round QB.

          • Rocky Reigns

            True but as for me i see the Pats giving Tom Brady the weapons he needs and wants.for him to continue being dominantin his illustrious hall of fame career and i really can see them taking Kelvin Benjamin and C.J. Fierdowicz as top targets to come in and make a total difference on the offensive side of the ball