In 2013, there were 24 players that had over 1000 yards receiving, the most since 2004. The lone Patriot player on the list, Julian Edelman, was the only receiver on the Patriots to play in all 16 games. The rest of the Patriots weapons were either injured for significant time (Gronkowski, Vereen, Amendola) or were rookies (Dobson, Thompkins, Boyce). The pressure was on last season for the rookies to perform. They were thrown into the fire, and Tom Brady was forced to make chicken salad out of chicken s...just ask Marima.
When the Patriots drafted Aaron Dobson with their second pick in the second round of the draft in 2013, reactions were mixed but expectations were fairly high given the turmoil the Patriots had faced with the loss of Wes Welker in free agency. Nobody expected him to come in and be Randy Moss, but the hope was that he would add an element to the passing game that had been missing since Moss departed. The results were, well, interesting.
While sometimes he was great:
Other times he was infuriating:
For me, Dobson mostly encapsulated this:
That was a beautifully designed play that sprung him open and he capitalized. The degree of difficulty wasn't too hard, and he made the play. This is exactly the kind of play the Patriots expect all of their players to be able to make. But what I want to see from Dobson, as I'm sure most of you do, is for him to be making the plays in the first gif and the second gif. That touchdown against the Steelers was the type of play that completely demoralizes an opponent. Catching that pass against the Jets would have probably destroyed their morale too. The athleticism is there. It just needs to come together. What exactly does it coming together look like?
That brings me back to the 1000 yard receivers from last year. The misconception for a lot of people is that the best receivers in the league were always dominant. It is hard for people to grasp that many of the best receivers were not the best from the day they stepped onto the field. Here are some quick hits regarding last year's 1000 yard receivers.
- 11 of them had less than 500 yards receiving in their rookie season.
- 4 of them had less than 500 yards receiving in their sophomore season
- 17 of the 24 had more receptions in their sophomore season
- 19 of the 24 had more receiving yards in their sophomore season
- 16 of the 24 had more receiving touchdowns in their sophomore season
The average rookie campaign vs the average sophomore season isn't even close.
So what does this mean for Aaron Dobson? Well, Dobson had 37 catches for 519 yards and 4 touchdowns in his rookie year. If Dobson were to improve based on the average of the sample, his 2014 season would look like this:
|Average 2nd Year Increase||+21||+350||+2|
I know a lot of people probably want to see Dobson get over 1000 yards receiving this year. Also, 6 touchdowns does not seem like a lot for the guy many want to see break out and become the number one receiver. However, those numbers fall where it should be expected when considering how the role was used before. Since the departure of Moss in 2010, the Patriots outside receivers were not posting 1000 yard seasons.
|2010||Randy Moss/Deion Branch||57||845||8|
|2011||Deion Branch/Chad Ochocinco||66||978||6|
With the Patriots most likely not employing the two tight end offense any more, a more traditional look would have us hoping that Dobson could get to a level close to Randy Moss. There are only a handful of receivers that are capable of putting up Moss-level numbers in the league, and it is perfectly reasonable to accept that Dobson is not one of those guys. Could he be? I won't leave that possibility out. Would I be happy if Dobson improved into my projection above? Absolutely.
The Patriots are looking like a very scary team heading into 2014. They finished the last two seasons with losses in the AFC Championship Game, the equivalent of finishing in the top four teams in the league. I believe that they were better than the Broncos last year if healthy, so simply the team being even half as healthy next year should put them in contention for the Super Bowl. If Dobson can grow, he can become another dangerous piece in the championship puzzle.