Today we continue our breakdown of the 2013 New England Patriots rookie class by taking a look at the latter of Bill Belichick's second round picks. By going pass rush with the 52nd selection, he was able to circle back and address another position of need at 59: receiver.
Aaron Dobson, receiver, Marshall (59th overall pick)
Strengths: Tall, powerful receiver with great hands and excellent top speed. Long arms and good vertical leaping ability allows him to grab a lot of balls out of the air over defenders despite solid coverage. Wins most jump balls and has excellent control of his body while in the air. Strength and size makes him difficult to tackle, and he rarely drops a pass. Capable of making spectacular catches and has great sideline awareness. Knows how to sell the playaction and consistently fakes out defenders with his double move. Capable of sustaining blocks and isn't afraid to get physical on running plays. Senior team captain at Marshall who is surprisingly humble for a receiver, known as a team-first guy and should fit right into the Patriots locker room.
Weaknesses: Dobson has great hands, but they are oddly small for his frame, which means less surface area on the ball. Takes him a few strides to get up to speed, and thus could be rendered ineffective by more physical corners who bump him at the line; because of that, he has been hesitant to make contact and lacks precision on his underneath routes. Has yet to face an elite defender and could have trouble against strong cornerbacks. Raw overall as a pro and could use a little more discipline in his route tree.
Roster Lock? Definitely. Bill Belichick drafted Dobson with the intention of inserting him right into the starting offense, and unless he has an absolutely disastrous training camp, look for Dobson to not only be on the final roster, but on the weekly stat sheet as well.
Role in 2013: Of all the rookies the Patriots drafted, I think that Dobson has the biggest chance to make an immediate impact. He represents the size, speed, and athleticism that New England has been missing since Randy Moss departed. Furthermore, the Patriots simply don't have any pure outside receivers, and so Dobson has little competition for that spot. As we've seen time and time again, the receiver position in New England is either one you get (Branch, Givens, Welker, Stallworth) or you don't (Galloway, Gabriel, Ochocinco), and as long as Dobson is able to adapt to the Patriots offense, look for him to be a Week 1 starter that forces safeties to respect the deep ball. While Dobson, through no fault of his own, runs the risk of drawing comparisons to Randy Moss - both because of his size/hands and where he went to school - as long as fans aren't expecting a Moss 2.0 to come in and score 20 touchdowns a season while one-hand catching his way to the Rookie of the Year Award, then we should all be very happy with what he brings to the table. Dobson likely won't be an immediate, Day 1 impact player, but with some molding can be an excellent asset to this team and will likely end his 2013 campaign a very different player from where he starts.