Patriots' Camp Competition: Wide Receiver

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With training camp about a month and a half around the corner, we've started our position by position training camp battles series here at Pats Pulpit.  First, we looked at the inside linebacker position.  Now, we're moving onto the offensive side of the ball, and looking at the wide receivers.

Overview:

The wide receiver position could very well be the most competitive position on the Patriots' roster once training camp rolls around.  While Randy Moss will be the number one outside receiver, not much is known after that.  Wes Welker, who is recovering from a torn ACL, more than likely won't be ready for training camp, let alone the regular season.  Julian Edelman looks like a top candidate to fill Welker's spot, as he was effective in his time at the position in his rookie season.  Beyond Edelman, the Patriots have two veterans, Torry Holt and David Patten, who figure to compete for roster spots.  Meanwhile, the Patriots also have two young guns, Brandon Tate and Taylor Price, who will be pushing those veterans.  The depth chart is rounded out with veteran Sam Aiken, as well as developmental players Matthew Slater, Buddy Farnham, and Darnell Jenkins.

Projected Depth Chart:

*Note: I consider three receivers "starters"

1. Randy Moss, #81

2. Julian Edelman, #11 (slot)

3. Torry Holt, #84

4. Brandon Tate, #19

5. Taylor Price, #17

6. Sam Aiken, #88

Projected Cuts: David Patten, #86; Matthew Slater, #18; Darnell Jenkins, #10; Buddy Farnham, #13

***Wes Welker begins regular season on PUP list

Randy Moss, #81

It's hard to imagine a scenario where Randy Moss wouldn't be starting for the Patriots.  The only scenario Moss may not start would be if he was injured.  Therefore, I would say Moss' only competition is himself.  People are looking to Moss, who is in a contract year, and looking for him to give 100%.  While I thought Moss never gave anything less (despite what the media was saying), there is no question that all eyes will be on Moss, especially if Welker is out for the start of the season. Chance to Start: 100% | Chance to Make Roster: 100%

Wes Welker, #83

We all know the story with Wes Welker.  Torn ACL in week 17, prognosticators say he might not even be back in 2010.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, he's out there doing agility drills and running routes.  If Wes Welker is healthy enough, he will be the Patriots starting slot receiver come week one.  The key is, will he be healthy enough?  While my mind tells me he won't be ready, something in my gut keeps telling me he will.  Nevertheless, the Patriots don't want to rush Welker into anything. Chance to Start: 25% | Chance to Make Roster: 100%

Julian Edelman, #11

If there is a "sure thing" after Randy Moss, it would be Julian Edelman.  In his rookie season, Julian Edelman made the switch from quarterback at Kent State, to NFL wide receiver for the New England Patriots.  From the looks of things, that transition has continued well into 2010.  Edelman has great agility and quickness, reminiscent of Wes Welker.  While it seems his best position will be as a slot receiver, I think he showed he can be effective on the outside, so he will still have a role even when Wes Welker comes back. Chance to Start: 70% | Chance to Make Roster: 100%

Rest of the players after the jump!

Torry Holt, #84

When the Patriots signed Torry Holt right before the draft in April, many fans compared the signing to that of Joey Galloway just a year before.  As you know, Galloway was a huge letdown for the Patriots.  But don't fear, although Torry Holt is up there in age (34), he is no Joey Galloway.  With the Jaguars in 2009, Torry Holt averaged 14.2 yards per catch, so he can still get down field.  However, Holt is also a savvy route runner, and will likely have the versatility to come out of the slot, or play on the outside.  Holt's main competition will be the young guns, who will be pushing Holt not only for a roster spot, but for a starting position on the outside.  Chance to Start: 40% | Chance to Make Roster: 85%

Brandon Tate, #19

It's hard to know what to expect out of Brandon Tate, who is finally healthy after tearing his ACL his senior year at North Carolina.  Tate, who was a third round pick in 2009, has been lining up with the 1st team so far in mini-camp.  If he is 100% and can continue to step it up, he could very well be a dangerous weapon for the Patriots in 2010 and beyond.  For now, he will be battling the likes of Torry Holt, David Patten, and Taylor Price for playing time.  Tate may be the team's best true outside option other than Randy Moss. Chance to Start: 40% | Chance to Make Roster: 97%

David Patten, #86

If you had asked me David Patten's chances to make the roster just a month ago, I would say probably not very likely.  Today, however, I think there's a good chance David Patten makes this team.  While Patten may not be the explosive down-field threat he once was for the Patriots, he is still a good route runner, and still does have enough speed to challenge the outside.  Combine that with savvy route running and an established rapport with quarterback Tom Brady, and it becomes increasingly difficult to count Patten out.  If Patten has a strong training camp, the only thing possibly holding him back would be the numbers game, with Moss, Edelman, Tate, and Price locks.  If Wes Welker is back for the start of the season, it will likely be down to Patten or Holt for that last receiver spot.  Also hurting Patten is his lack of value on special teams, where a player like Sam Aiken or Matthew Slater could make the roster. Chance to Start: 10% | Chance to Make Roster: 35%

Taylor Price, #17

Taylor Price is a big receiver (over 6', 205 pounds) with incredible speed who was a third round pick of the Patriots in this April's draft.  While Price likely won't be starting opening day for the Patriots, he could have a key role for the Patriots by the end of the season.  Price will probably see most of his time on the outside, but has the quickness to become a good route runner who could play the slot.  Chance to Start: 5% | Chance to Make Roster: 99.5%

Sam Aiken, #88

At times last season, due to injury, Sam Aiken was a starting wide receiver for the New England Patriots.  While it didn't go terribly, it probably wasn't the most appropriate role for Aiken.  Nonetheless, Aiken did make some big plays, and he was a key special teams contributor for the Patriots.  Lets not forget that Patriots signed Aiken to a two year extension in October and he was named a special teams captain.  While Patriots fans may be quick to cast off Aiken, I think he will make the Patriots roster. Chance to Start: 3% | Chance to Make Roster: 50%

Matthew Slater, #18

When Matthew Slater was drafted by the Patriots in the fifth round in 2008, many people expected him to become a special teams ace.  While he has been solid covering kicks, he hasn't been the return man that many people were hoping he'd be.  He also hasn't panned out as a receiver or as a safety, although he has shown improvement as a wideout as of late.  If Slater hopes to make the Patriots roster in 2010, he will have to up his play on special teams to make a player like Sam Aiken more expendable. Chance to Start: 1% | Chance to Make Roster: 15%

Buddy Farnham, #13

When all is said and done, I think Buddy Farnham's best shot at sticking with the Patriots is on the practice squad.  While the Brown product has been solid in mini-camps, showing solid route running and hands, he would have to have an absolute phenomenal training camp to make the 53, let alone start.  Chance to Start: .5% | Chance to Make Roster: 5%

Darnell Jenkins, #10

Like Buddy Farnham, Darnell Jenkins is a long shot to make the Patriots roster.  A torn ACL slowed down Jenkins' college career, and he has bounced around to several different teams during his brief NFL career.  Although undersized, Jenkins could provide some value as a returner.  I think he remains a solid practice squad candidate Chance to Start: .5% | Chance to Make Roster: 3%

FINAL VERDICT: Randy Moss, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, and Brandon Tate are all locks to be on the 53 come opening day, barring injury.  I think Welker has a decent shot to be back, although I doubt the Patriots will rush him.  After those four, it looks like David Patten, Torry Holt, and Sam Aiken will be battling for one or two roster spots.  Matthew Slater looks like he could be on his way out, while Farnham and Jenkins remain relative unknowns and are longshots to make the team.

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