During the dulls, I'll take a swag at who will make the final roster without the benefit of seeing most of these guys with pads on. I'll start with the wide receivers.
At the end of last year we carried 3.5 WR's (Stanback was listed as both a QB and a wide receiver) on the active roster (with 2 more on the practice squad): Randy Moss, Julian Edelman, Sam Aiken, and Isaiah Stanback. I know Slater was listed as a wide receiver, but really never played the position. At the beginning of the season, they told him he would concentrate only on the defensive side (yeah he's a safety), but he really only saw the field on special teams. Welker of course was on IR because of game 16.
I'm removing Aiken from the list, because he would have made the squad strictly based on special teams ability regardless of whether his backup job was WR, S, LB, or whatever. I'm adding his name to the special teams section. As the special teams captain, he ran ST meetings, called coverages, and filled in on every ST formation. That's how Izzo earned his bread and butter, and until someone else steps up to take Aiken's role, it's his job.
Whether we have Moss next year remains to be seen, but for this year, he's our #1 receiver. It's a contract year for Moss, and he may not be on a Super Bowl contender next year. Look for him to show everyone that there is only one Randy Moss.
As many times as I hear that Edelman will be better than Welker, I chuckle. Welker has redefined the position of slot receiver and gets open better than anyone in the business. His soft hands and yards after mean that he has a spot on the roster as soon as his knee is healthy - which could be as soon as week 1. Edelman, however, has a unique opportunity to switch between the under routes and the middle routes which don't suit the slower Welker. In addition, they can set up receiver picks and blocks for each other improving the effectiveness of each. Edelman's best opportunity to stick around comes not from emulating Welker, but from complementing him.
Taylor Price and Brandon Tate are both young burners who can open up the field opposite Moss. Either one is eligible for the practice squad, but neither is likely to stay there very long.
Add to the mix veterans Torry Holt and David Patten who are both smooth route runners with plenty of NFL experience, and you quickly have a very crowded receiving corps.
As if that wasn't enough, Darnell Jenkins and Buddy Farnham would like a shot at the team.
I'm looking at 5 slots here (closer to the 2007 roster) not counting Aiken's ST role. The easy answer is Welker goes on PUP for a few games and joins us at the end of the season. I'm not sure that will happen, but I'll look at both options after the jump.
The big thing to look at here is roles. Moss stretches the field, but will do it better if there is a threat on the other side. No one beats Welker underneath, but you need a couple guys that can run the whole route tree so that the defense has no idea what they will do. In addition, we may be without Moss next year and we need an heir apparent to his role. Neither Price nor Tate have the size and abilities that Moss does. The tandem of the two, though, may be effective for several years. So here goes:
Sans Welker: (The more likely option)
1. Randy Moss
2. Julian Edelman - slot
3. Brandon Tate - field stretcher
4. Taylor Price - route runner
5. Torry Holt - route runner (though Patten may surprise)
PS: Buddy Farnham
With Welker: I think Edelman may stick around as the other route runner. Price has more long term upside than either Edelman or Holt, so the competition is between Edelman and Holt. Holt has experience, Edelman has athleticism and youth. Longer term, that's worth more.