The New England Patriots' 2018 wide receiver corps will look drastically different to the one the team fielded last season: The team's top two wide receivers from 2017 in terms of receptions, yards and playing time will all wear different uniforms this year. After Danny Amendola signed a free-agency contract with the Miami Dolphins in March, the Patriots opted to trade away Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams yesterday.
The move has a big impact on the Patriots in terms of draft capital, financial resources, and also roster construction: With Cooks joining Amendola as wide receivers exiting New England over the course of the offseason, the team's remaining wideouts will have to step up to help fill the voids created by the departures. Luckily for the team, it is well equipped when it comes to depth at the position.
Let's take a look at the wide receiver left on the Patriots' roster following the Cooks trade:
Julian Edelman (5'10, 200 lbs, opening day age: 32): Despite coming off reconstructive knee surgery, Edelman is projected to once again play a big role in the Patriots offense – especially with Cooks and Amendola gone. One of Tom Brady's most-trusted players, the soon-to-be 32-year old will likely see his usual share of targets as the quarterback's go-to-guy in key situations.
Chris Hogan (6'1, 210 lbs, opening day age: 30): Hogan struggled with injuries throughout the 2017 season and as a result missed a total of seven games. When healthy, though, he proved to be a similarly productive player as the one he was in 2016 – a weapon in both the intermediate and deep passing game, and one that has earned Brady's trust. As such, Hogan projects to be a core member of the Patriots' aerial attack in 2018.
Phillip Dorsett (5'10, 185 lbs, opening day age: 25): After a relatively quiet 2017 season, Dorsett might see his role expand significantly with Cooks now gone. The former Indianapolis Colts first-round draft choice, who the Patriots acquired via trade last September, will enter his first full offseason with the team and as a result should grow into a more comfortable player within the offense.
Malcolm Mitchell (6'1, 200 lbs, opening day age: 25): Mitchell missed all of 2017 due to a knee injury – and just like Edelman he is projected to be good to go again in 2018. If that is the case, Mitchell will likely hold a similar role to the one he played during his rookie campaign: a rotational third or fourth option at the wide receiver position that will play roughly 40-50% of the Patriots' offensive snaps.
Kenny Britt (6'3, 225 lbs, opening day age: 29): Like Dorsett, Britt also had to learn the Patriots' offense on the fly last year: He was signed as a free agent in December and appeared in only three games. Britt too might benefit from a full offseason in New England and as one of the bigger wideouts on the roster – one that brings size to the perimeter – should find a niche on the team come the regular season.
Cordarrelle Patterson (6'2, 220 lbs, opening day age: 27): The newest addition to the Patriots' wide receiver corps, Patterson's main contributions to the Patriots are projected to come as a return specialist. Given his athletic abilities, however, it would not be a surprise to see the former first-round pick also be regularly used on offense and as part of certain play designs that aim to take advantage of his rare combination of size and speed.
Riley McCarron (5'9, 185 lbs, opening day age: 25): After starting the 2017 offseason with the Houston Texans, McCarron joined the Patriots' practice squad in late September. The undrafted rookie, who primarily serves as a slot receiver in the mold of recently departed Amendola, remained on the scout team the entire year. He was named as one of the “practice players of the week” four times.
Cody Hollister (6'4, 210 lbs, opening day age: 24): The twin brother of Patriots tight end Jacob Hollister also spent his 2017 rookie campaign on the team's practice squad. While Hollister will likely need a standout offseason to earn a role on the roster come September, his size make him an intriguing option. Like McCarron, he too was honored as as “practice player of the week” four times last year.
Matthew Slater (6'0, 205 lbs, opening day age: 33): A wide receiver in name only, Slater still has not caught a pass since 2011's opening day. His role on the roster is still save, though, as the team captain is a standout on special teams that sees only marginal offensive playing time each year. At best, Slater is an emergency option at the position and as such will not have much of an impact on the passing game in 2018.
As can be seen, the Patriots have plenty of bodies at the wide receiver position. And even though the group faces its fair share of questions – from health to a lack of past production –, the talent certainly is there to provide Tom Brady with a solid group of pass catchers alongside tight end Rob Gronkowski and the running backs like James White and Rex Burkhead.