(Feel free to ask any more Patriots WR questions in this thread or @ me on Twitter @Ethanhamm!)
Even though the Patriots have had a fairly potent passing offense this season, the specter of not being able to develop a receiving prospect still remains. Josh Boyce did not make the team coming out of the preseason (although he did stick on the practice squad) and Aaron Dobson's lack of progression from his rookie to sophomore year could portend his addition to the pile of Patriots wide receiver busts that, when stacked one atop the other, could be about as high at this point as a Taylor Price vertical leap.
Now, that does not mean the Patriots have not made hay at the position regardless of these drafting foibles. Julian Edelman has consistently shown the flashes of becoming a top-tier contributor, and this season has been one of his best. Danny Amendola, while still a bit of an albatross in terms of his cap number, has stepped up as a kickoff returner and had some of his biggest games this year in moments when no one else was able to unlock the opposing defense (most notably, the first Jets game). Brandon Lafell has been an absolute revelation as a drive starter and a YAC guy, and probably has solidified his place as Tom Brady's third favorite weapon behind Gronk and Edelman at this point. Heck, even Brian Tyms has flashed in the limited action that he has seen.
However, the Patriots are still lacking in one area - a true game-breaking field stretcher. In this draft class, there are a few players who jump out as potential guys to watch there, especially given how many valuable picks the Patriots have in the middle three rounds of this draft.
Phillip Dorsett, Miami (FL)
If speed kills, Phillip Dorsett is Jay from Serial.
The Hurricane has 4.3 speed and although his size is not ideal at 5 foot 10, 185, the 4.3 speed is most certainly legitimate and shows up on game film. He has the ability to take a short pass and make it into a big play almost routinely, as shown in the below gif.
Dorsett's ability to see the field and make things happen after the catch serve as one of his best overall qualities. However, even though some questions linger about his hands at times, he does show the sense and ability to snag passes from the air and make NFL level catches, even when they are pretty difficult.
On the above play, Dorsett catches the ball with his hands, away from his body, gets two feet in bounds, and keeps the ball still as he goes to the ground. He's a tough player with all of the necessary boxes checked to be a productive professional.
My current comparison for Dorsett, in terms of long-term upside, is Santana Moss; he has the former Hurricane's dynamic ability after the catch and overall acumen for the game. However, for something more reasonable, think Emmanuel Sanders. In the mid second round, that would be a perfect complementary piece for the Patriots' offensive unit.
Tony Lippett, Michigan State
No, Tony Lippett is not the son of ex-Patriot Ronnie Lippett. That would be awesome, but it is unfortunately untrue.
However, Tony Lippett IS the reason why Connor Cook got any first round hype over the past year. His growth has been absolutely phenomenal, and he has the capacity to be a very good NFL receiver thanks to his unique skillset.
Like current Patriot Lafell, Lippett came to his new team as a gangly, less-than-physically developed talent. His dedication to the craft of football has helped him take the next step in his progression, becoming possibly the best wide receiver in the B1G (not saying much, but still).
He just does everything well.
On that play, Lippett was strong at the catch point, broke tackles, and showed ability as a long strider. The more I watched Lippett, the more his skillset reminded me of Lafell's - which may not necessarily be a bad thing, as Lafell has been a key contributor for this team all year.
One major difference, however, is that Lippett is able to get open vertically a bit more consistently. He's not the fastest guy, but he is able to use his physicality to get separation.
Lippett may not be the sexiest pick, but his combination of hands, size, ability after the catch, ability to get open, and versatility (he's playing cornerback this year too!) could make him an ideal Patriot. As a late second-early third round pick, New England cound do a lot worse.
Ethan's Top 20 WRs to Date
1. Devin Funchess, Michigan
2. Amari Cooper, Alabama
3. Devante Parker, Louisville
4. Kevin White, West Virginia
5. Ty Montgomery, Stanford
6. Sammie Coates, Auburn
7. Phillip Dorsett, Miami (FL)
8. Tony Lippett, Michigan State
9. Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
10. Justin Hardy, ECU
11. Nelson Agholor, USC
12. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
13. Ezell Ruffin, San Diego State
14. Devin Smith, Ohio State
15. Devante Davis, UNLV
16. Rashad Greene, Florida State
17. Kasen Williams, Washington
18. Tony Jones, Northwestern
19. Titus Davis, Central Michigan
20. Tre McBride, William and Mary