The Patriots wide receiver depth chart is rather full, despite losing two of Tom Brady’s top targets from 2017 in Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola. While the team might not have a typical “number one receiver”, they have a number of talented players that could fit well into New England’s system and establish one of the most effective passing games in the NFL.
*Matthew Slater is technically listed on the depth chart as a receiver. However, he only plays receiver in the direst of circumstances, and will be included as part of my breakdown of the Patriots special teams*
Edelman is coming off of an ACL tear suffered in the 2017 preseason. Luckily, he has had a long recovery period and should be completely healthy heading into 2018. The issue with Edelman is that his skill set is predominately based on sharp cuts, both in his routes and in the open field. This was how he injured his knee last year. That could limit him mentally heading into next season, as he needs to get back to playing at full speed without the fear of damaging his knee on a cut. If he can get over that hurdle, I would expect him to be back at top form, as he is one of the hardest working Patriots that has ever played for Bill Belichick.
While Hogan’s numbers may have dropped slightly from 2016 to 2017, his value did not. With Brandin Cooks taking over the role of downfield-pass-catcher, Hogan worked more on intermediate routes to make up for the lost production with Edelman. He ended up with roughly the same amount of catches and touchdowns in 2017 as he did in 2016, and had a fantastic Super Bowl performance. The Patriots will rely on him again this year, especially to make up for the loss of Danny Amendola. His footwork and precise route running make him one of Brady’s most effective targets.
The Patriots acquired Dorsett from the Colts in exchange for backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett. He had a dismal year, catching just 12 passes for 194 yards. While his speed makes him a player with potential, his spot on the 2018 roster will be in jeopardy if he can’t develop into a multi-faceted receiver.
After an extremely impressive rookie campaign that included a vitally important Super Bowl performance, Mitchell sat out the entire 2017 season with a knee injury. The former Georgia Bulldog is a talented receiver with a knack for running precise timing routes. He also has developed a good chemistry with Brady, which is extremely valuable. If he can come back in 2018 in perfect health, he will be able to make a significant impact on the Patriots offense.
Britt was a mid-season addition in 2017 that didn’t amount to much. However, the Patriots picked up his 2018 option, likely to get a longer look at him and see if he can fit better into New England’s system after a full offseason. He is likely on the roster bubble, but a good camp outing could earn him a spot. He is a talented veteran who could help the Patriots with his size.
The second-year player spent his entire first season on the Patriots practice squad. While Hollister is a nice player, he is unlikely to crack the roster, and he will most likely find himself on the practice squad again unless he made drastic improvements over the offseason.
McCarron is another practice squad player for New England. His chance at making the main team roster is slim, but he could find his way on if he can compete with Braxton Berrios for a spot as a slot receiver/punt returner.
Patterson has not been a prolific receiver at any point during his career, and it would be unwise for Patriots fans to head into 2018 expecting him to somehow develop into a top target now. He is very likely being brought in for his skills as a kick returner. However, he does have speed and size and has shown an improved catching ability over the past two seasons. He may not play a large part in the Patriots offensive plans, but his diversity and skill set make him a valuable weapon.
Matthews is coming off of an injury-riddled 2017 campaign with Buffalo. However, he still posted decent numbers considering he only played in 10 games. Matthews has experience both out wide and in the slot, which gives the Patriots diversity with him on the field. He will be a good compliment to both Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. Matthews is the most talented of the Patriots offseason additions, and if he can head into 2018 healthy, he could have a very good chance at seeing his numbers jump up. He is a similar addition as to what Brandon LaFell was before the 2014 season, the difference being that Matthews has a better track record and more talent than Lafell had.
The rookie out of Miami comes in as the seemingly prototypical Patriots slot receiver: small, quick, and tough. If he can learn from Edelman and Hogan, he could excel in the Patriots system as he was fantastic at Miami with timing and crossing routes. He will need to focus on having reliable hands and developing a good relationship with Brady, but he has potential to be the next Julian Edelman in New England IF he comes in and works as hard as the former seventh-round pick out of Kent State that has worked his way to become one of the best slot receivers in the league.
The Patriots are entering the summer with an overloaded receiver group that will see a lot of cuts. However, there is a bevy of unappreciated talent that has the potential to shock some teams in 2018.
Until next time – B$