Bring on Boyce

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The oft-forgotten man in the rotation may become a key component next season

When you think of the Patriots current state at receiver, it's unlikely you'll have too positive of a reaction. Sure, Julian Edelman shone brightly for the season, but he's currently an unknown entering free agency. There's the injury-trio of Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, and Shane Vereen, all elite players who just can't manage to stay on the field.

And then there are the rookies. You'll think of second round pick Aaron Dobson and undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins. They haven't been able to stay healthy either, but they've put together a strong enough rookie campaign to leave Patriots fans semi-hopeful for the future.

Lost in the mix is fourth rounder Josh Boyce, a rookie unfortunately thrust into the spotlight (as was the story of the season) in the final quarter of the season due to injuries to Gronk, Thompkins, and Dobson.

Boyce was drafted to mixed receptions. Everyone understood his physical prowess, but his inability to contribute left people questioning if he'd be another draft miss. He's one of the great receivers in TCU's storied history, and projects more favorable than Patriot killer and current Jet receiver Jeremy Kerley.

So when Boyce finally took the field against Cleveland with the expectation that he would contribute, people took notice. And Boyce played well. Not great. Not earth shattering. But he caught what was thrown to him, made some people miss, and moved the ball down the field.

The next week, Boyce went to Miami to try and do more of the same. Instead, he dropped three passes and hurt his ankle enough to be placed on the injured reserve.

Talk about coming back to Earth.

Still, Boyce flashed enough to give people hope for the future. He played like Vereen, where looked dangerous every time he caught the ball in the open field. Sure, he most played with checkdowns, screens, and crossers, but he showed potential, the same potential Kerley shows every time he torches the Patriots.

Boyce needs the off-season to grow as a player and to gain Brady's trus, but the underlying potential is there. Edelman will own the headlines for free agency. Amendola's growth and Gronkowski's return will be the main storylines for the season. Dobson and Thompkins will receive the most fanfare.

Just don't sleep on Boyce.

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