After a 2012 season that ended in disappointment as the Patriots suffered a devastating loss at home to the Baltimore Ravens, multiple questions about the personnel groupings of the Patriots came to the forefront. Those questions included failures at drafting at WR and CB. What we saw in the Super Bowl and the AFC Championship game from the Ravens at the WR position was when in doubt, the guy that made the play was Anquan Boldin. That physical element at the WR position has been lacking since David Givens left in Free Agency following the 2005 season. Many WRs have come and gone, including future Hall of Famer Randy Moss, who brought an added dimension to the offense, but ultimately the Patriots have failed to win a Super Bowl with Moss. While when talking about draft prospects at the WR position, many people quickly name Tavon Austin, Quinton Patton, Justin Hunter, and Robert Woods in the opening two rounds of the draft, but my feeling about the WR position in the draft is that the talent level in this draft is very deep, to the point where drafting a WR in the 4th-7th round could end up netting a 1st-3rd round talent.
5 Players in particular come to mind when discussing late round WR prospects (Rounds 4-7).
- Chris Harper- Kansas State
- Marcus Davis- Virginia Tech
- Dan Buckner- Arizona
- Aaron Mellette- Elon
- Tavarres King- Georgia
Ultimately we really won't know what true physical tools they have until the combine, where people will be able to see what a player's "measurables" that would project into their offense. These five players are listed as 4th-7th round prospects whether due to anonymity (Mellette), lack of gaudy stats (Harper, Buckner) or off-field issues with the coaching staff (King, Davis). All of these WRs are at least 6'0", run sub 4.60 40s, and have hand sizes greater than 9 1/4".
- Chris Harper- 6'1" 228 lbs, Arm length 32", Hand length 9 5/8", 4.46 40-yd dash (projected 4th)
Chris Harper was a QB once recruited by Oregon and Chip Kelly, but ultimately did not pan out at QB and eventually transferred to Kansas State, where he was converted into a WR. Harper has a big frame, similar to Ravens WR Anquan Boldin, but possesses more speed on the outside. He is currently rated as a 4th round prospect after a 2012 season where he caught 58 passes for 857 yards and 3 TDs on a Kansas State team that ended up finishing in the top 5 in the polls before a Fiesta Bowl loss to Harper's original team, Oregon. Analysis from CBS
Harper is a coordinated athlete with above average body control and focus, tracking the ball beautifully and snatching it out of the air with his reliable hands. Harper isn't overly explosive and is more of a one-speed player, but has been improving each game as a route runner and is an effective perimeter blocker with a strong core for the position. While not a track star, Harper has good-enough football speed and is one of the more underrated receivers for the 2013 class.
- Marcus Davis- 6'3" 230 lbs, Arm Length 33 3/4", Hand length 10 1/8", 4.47 40-yd dash (projected 7th/FA)
Davis is a physical freak, enough said. If not for his off the field issues, this guy would be in the discussion of being a potential first round pick. At 6'3" and 230 lbs, he is one of the bigger WRs in the draft while possessing a very long reach with 34" arms and the ability to stretch the field vertically with a 4.47 40-yd dash. However, he can be at times very lazy when it comes to his run blocking and route running, which can be a very maddening point for most coaches. Ideally what Davis lacks is a commitment and a strong work ethic, which could turn him off to teams looking for a WR prospect in the draft. Davis caught 51 passes for 953 yards, and 5 of them for scores. A team like the Seahawks or Patriots would be an ideal landing spot for him, as Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick are good at motivating their players to play, albeit with different methods.
Analysis from CBS
Strengths: Big-framed athlete with a well-proportioned frame and good muscle definition. Good football speed and plays fast with the vertical ability to burst past defenders in single coverage. Fluid body control and explodes after the catch, showing dynamic ability with the ball in his hands. Very good extension and leaping ability to attack the ball at it?s highest point. Flashes a similar skill-set to Dez Bryant and has very good upside.
Weaknesses: Not a refined route runner and often ran wrong pattern and appeared on different page than quarterback. Doesn?t consistently catch the ball cleanly and isn?t reliable on throws away from his body. Needs to do a better job gaining body position and timing his jumps. Too many mental mistakes and doesn?t play like a senior or leader. Plays lazy and is unreliable at times. Looks disinterested and is a tough guy to figure out ? what makes him tick?
- Dan Buckner- 6'4" 212 lbs, Arm length 33 1/4", Hand length 9 3/8", 4.57 40-yd dash (projected Undrafted free agent)
Dan Buckner might be a name most of you Red Sox fans would be irate at, but 1986 was over 25 years ago. Baseball jokes aside, Dan Buckner would be a very good add to the Patriots vaunted receiving corps. Buckner is the slowest WR in this group, but also the tallest in the group. Buckner was initially recruited at University of Texas, but then off field issues ended up getting him kicked off the program and later transferred to Arizona. In 2012, Buckner started all 13 games for Arizona, catching 61 passes for 773 yards and 5 TDs. His 6'4" height plus 34" reach on the outside gives him a good catching radius to deal with on the outside as a guy who can open up the middle of the field for Gronk, Hernandez, and Welker.
Analysis from CBS (note that the 7 starts dates to August 2012)
With only seven career starts to his credit, Buckner is hardly a house-hold name at this point. He does, however, possess the size and deceptive speed to enjoy a breakout senior campaign. A long-strider who has demonstrated reliable hands in the past, Buckner should be able to provide the deep threat on the outside to allow the smaller slot receivers Rich Rodriguez has preferred in the past to excel.
No highlights exist on Buckner on YouTube so if you disagree about this guy, I'm sorry that you won't be able to see his play like I did first hand before the draft.
- Aaron Mellette- 6'3" 216 lbs, Arm length 32 1/8", Hand length 9 5/8", 4.53 40-yd dash (projected 5th-6th)
Aaron Mellette has the problem of playing for a small school. However, we are not looking at his college's football program, just the player. Mellette broke records in the FCS, particularly the Southern Conference, and that should not go unnoticed. He carries a reputation of being able catch balls over his head and down around the ankles (a big plus for Tom Brady who likes to throw it low when under pressure). Carrying a basketball background only helps to serve himself, as ultimately in 1 on 1 coverage, catching a ball high in the air or in the end zone is similar to rebounding a jumper shot that bounces off the rim. Mellette offers the most upside in this group and would be the ideal complement to both Welker and Lloyd.
Analysis from CBS (Overview)
It's not easy for "small school" prospects to generate much buzz in the NFL scouting community before their senior seasons, but Mellette served notice by leading the FCS in both receptions per game (10.27) and receiving yards per game (149.0) in 2011.
He broke Terrell Hudgins' SoCon record with 1,639 receiving yards. That production, combined with a 6-4, 212-pound frame, makes Mellette an intriguing prospect who could garner early-round attention in the 2013 draft.
If Mellette can turn in another productive season and display good speed during pre-draft workouts, he could earn consideration in the area that Appalachian State's Brian Quick (No. 33 overall) went in the 2012 draft.
Mellette admits it won't be easy to match his gaudy statistics from 2011, but that won't stop him from trying.
"I feel like I'm going to get close," Mellette told NFLDraftScout.com in May. "But I hardly see that happening. We have other playmakers on this team and opposing defenses know about me. It will be tough."
Mellette was a basketball player growing up and didn't start playing football until his sophomore year in high school, which put him behind in the recruiting process. Despite a few letters from ACC and C-USA programs, he ended up at nearby Elon, a FCS-level program about an hour down the road from Mellette's hometown of Sanford, North Carolina.
After redshirting and seeing little playing time as a freshman, Mellette had a breakout 2010 season followed by his record-breaking campaign as a junior last year. Listed at 6-4 and 212 pounds, he looks the part, but there are questions about his ability to stretch the field and make an impact after the catch. And like every small school prospect, there are questions about how his skills will translate to the upper-echelon talent at the next level. But Mellette has no problems with those questions.
"I would agree," answered Mellette regarding concern that he hasn't faced top competition. "But I also make sure when I play Vanderbilt and those types of schools, I prove I can play at that level. I'm more than capable and I just have to show that when I get the opportunities."
Against Vandy last season in the season opener, Mellette had a game-best 11 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown reception. Although a small sample, he wasn't overmatched against the Commodores' pass defense, which ranked 18th in the FBS last season. Despite not facing elite defenses each week, NFL teams and pro scouts are well aware of Mellette and his remarkable production.
"Flip on the Elon-Appalachian State game from last season," said one pro scout. "Quick was good, but that Elon kid (Mellette) was the most impressive receiver on the field that day. If you're looking for flash and sizzle - Mellette isn't your guy. But if you want production, I think he can be a reliable player at the pro level."
Mellette has said the NFL has always been a goal and he looks forward to being the first person from his hometown to be a professional athlete.
"Quick set the bar pretty high for the SoCon", said Mellette. "Hopefully I can get into the first round, but I hope to just be drafted."
- Tavarres King- 6'0" 192 lbs, Arm length 32 5/8", Hand length 9 3/8", 4.49 40-yd dash (projected 4th)
Tavarres King benefits from playing in a prestigious conference unlike the other 4 players listed in this post. In 2012, King caught 42 passes for 950 yards (22.6 ypc) and 9 TDs. King lacks ideal height for a player to stretch the field vertically, but possesses great athleticism with excellent agility and being able to beat press coverage (something Lloyd has not been able to do consistently this year). While King does struggles with drops (every WR has that phase), he possesses skill sets that no other player in the Patriots receiving core has with a sub 4.50 40 and the ability to stretch the field with a 22.6 yards per catch average.
Analysis from CBS
STRENGTHS: Demonstrates great lateral agility, acceleration and generally reliable hands. Shows the stop-start-go elusiveness to consistently make defenders miss and enough straight-line speed to beat them over the top. His fluidity during drills at the Senior Bowl was also impressive, as he showed the foot quickness and balance to chop his feet and turn quickly. He was also the best on his squad at getting off press coverage.
WEAKNESSES: Weaknesses: Possesses a lean, almost skinny build, especially in his lower body. Inconsistent pass catcher. Occasionally allows easy passes to slip through his fingers as he attempts to make defenders miss before securing the ball. May be limited to lining up outside due to his lean frame.
COMPARES TO: Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers -- King has the agility and straight-line speed to achieve success in the NFL, but his lean frame and inconsistent hands may make him a better complementary option rather than a front-line starter.
Ultimately this how these players would rank as a fit in New England from my opinion only
- Aaron Mellette
- Tavarres King
- Chris Harper
- Dan Buckner
- Marcus Davis
Comment below on your opinion on strictly these 5 WRs and whether they could be a potential fit for the Patriots.