Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels will have numerous decisions to make regarding their receiving corps this season
At this point in the offseason, everyone knows the Patriots have questions at the receiver position. The departures of Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, and Aaron Hernandez have been well documented. Those three guys played a major role when they were on the field last season, and their skills and production will obviously will be missed.
However what some people do not know is that the Patriots could be without their top 7 (SEVEN!!!!) pass catchers from last year. In addition to the aforementioned trio, Tom Brady will also be without Danny Woodhead and past favorite target Deion Branch. Also, if the prognosis' of Julien Edelman and Rob Gronkowski do not improve, then Brady could be without all of those above players Week 1 against the Bills.
For some perspective, Brady completed 401 passes last year. The above 7 guys were on the receiving end of a combined 375 of those balls. Thats 93.5% of Brady's completions potentially gone for the start of the year. To say the receiver position is going through some overhaul is an understatement.
That is where the development of the rookie wide receivers is key. The Patriots currently have three who are all making a push to be on the roster come the end of camp. I'm going to take a look at each one individually and give my thoughts on each.
Aaron Dobson (2nd round, 59th overall): The draft was deep in wide receivers this year, and the Patriots traded down multiple times until they found their guy at 59 in Dobson. Dobson is well known for his spectacular catches while at Marshall, and the 6' 3" 203 pound is expected to be an outside threat for the Patriots this year. He is being lauded for his hands in training camp and made a great grab on a Brady pass over Aqib Talib over the weekend. The track record for the Patriots and rookie receivers has not been great over the past decade, but Dobson's football IQ is one reason why New England took him in the second round. I am told he reminds many of the last great pass catcher to come out of Marshall, Randy Moss. If he ends up anything like Moss I'm sure Brady will develop a chemistry with him quickly. This year Dobson should end up being the top target on the outside for Brady, as Danny Amendola and Gronk tend to work the middle of the field. Hopefully Dobson can develop into the stretch the field receiver the Pats have so desperately needed in recent seasons.
Josh Boyce (4th round, 102nd overall): Boyce does not have the size that Dobson has, but he does have blazing speed. He ran a 4.34 40 yard dash at the combine and that was with a broken toe. With a full training camp to get healthy and acclimated to the system, Boyce could become a factor in the offense early. With that speed he could also see time returning kicks and punts which he did at TCU for some time. Boyce is expected to compete for the number 3 wide receiver sport in camp, and could win that job with a strong preseason.
Kenbrell Thompkins (Undrafted Free Agent): Thompkins is the guy on this list that most people probably haven't heard of, but he could become a familiar name if his performance continues the way it has so far in the offseason. The 6' 1" rookie out of Cincinnati has made quite the impression on the coaching staff so far. He is supposedly "catching everything thrown his way" and his development was one of the reasons why the Patriots felt comfortable releasing Donald Jones before a snap was even taken in training camp. If his strong play continues he could also challenge Boyce and veteran Michael Jenkins for the number 3 spot on the depth chart.