With the Patriots' first OTA sessions now underway, and the first media access to those sessions taking place tomorrow, we'll begin our look at each of the major position battles on the Patriots roster. We'll start with a preview of each position over the next week, then updates throughout the OTA season, before training camp, after each preseason game, etc. Today, we'll start with the wide receiver position, which is shaping up to be perhaps the best position battle at camp.
Position: Wide Receiver
What's at Stake:
Virtually every spot on the depth chart behind Julian Edelman (who could end up playing in the slot or outside)
Danny Amendola: Cutting Amendola wouldn't save the Patriots anything financially, so a roster spot is his to lose. Where he lands on the depth chart and at what position (slot, outside) will be based upon his performance between now and the regular season.
Aaron Dobson: If Dobson doesn't step up to claim the top outside position, it will be considered a disappointment. Expectations are high for the 2013 2nd round draft choice, as he closed his rookie campaign on a high note and has the most potential of the Patriots young receivers.
Brandon LaFell: Considering the amount of years and guaranteed money the Patriots handed LaFell, it's obvious the team believes he will be a big part of what they will be doing in 2014. He could play the slot or the outside, and his size gives him an obvious advantage over others on the roster. He could factor anywhere from #2 to #5 on the depth chart.
Josh Boyce: Boyce will be flying under the radar heading into training camp, which might not be a bad thing for the 2013 4th round selection. Blessed with great athleticism, versatility, and after the catch ability, Boyce could be a potentially dangerous weapon for the Patriots in 2014 if he can continue to polish his game and master the offense.
Kenbrell Thompkins: Despite being an undrafted free agent, Thompkins came up short on the inflated expectations that were created for him due to his stellar training camp in 2013. Like Boyce, that means he's now flying under the radar heading into 2014. Armed with the best release skills of any receiver on the team, he's a dark horse candidate to start this year, although he's far from a lock for a roster spot.
Jeremy Gallon: While an undersized seventh round receiver wouldn't normally be a candidate to start, last year's emergence of Kenbrell Thompkins showed that no one should be counted out. And while Jeremy Gallon might only stand at 5'8", he plays like a bigger receiver, and had the production at Michigan to show for it. No, he probably won't be a starter in 2014, but that doesn't mean he can't make the roster and make an impact as a rookie.
Everyone else: Mark Harrison, Reggie Dunn, Derrick Johnson, Wilson Van Hooser, Reese Wiggins
Current Depth Chart Projection:
1. Julian Edelman (slot)
2. Aaron Dobson (outside)
3. Danny Amendola
4. Brandon LaFell
5. Josh Boyce
6. Kenbrell Thompkins
7. Matt Slater (special teams only)
(8. Jeremy Gallon)**
(9. Mark Harrison)**
(10. Derrick Johnson)**
(11. Reggie Dunn)**
(12t. Wilson Van Hooser)**
(12t. Reese Wiggins)**
** = Projected cut
Final Thoughts: This will be perhaps the most entertaining position to watch in training camp, and there will be some difficult cuts even if the Patriots choose to keep six receivers (not counting Slater). Dobson will be given every chance to win the starting job, but don't count out the two other second year receivers - Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins. One of the most interesting things about this group, while it is very young, is that each offers a unique skillset meaning there would be little redundancy by keeping each of the top six.