Over the past five years, the New England Patriots have traditionally held five wide receivers on the roster, in addition to special teams captain Matthew Slater. Danny Amendola was the only constant over those five years and the change in the type of wide receiver on the roster reflects how the offense has evolved over the years.
In 2013, the Patriots had two slot receivers in Amendola and Austin Collie; a versatile inside-outside player in Julian Edelman; and two outside receivers in Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins.
This breakdown of two slot players, two outside players, and Edelman- who does both- held true over the next two seasons as players like Keshawn Martin, Brandon LaFell, Josh Boyce, and Brian Tyms cycled on-and-off the roster.
The strategy changed in 2016 when the Patriots added Chris Hogan, who was also capable of lining up inside-and-outside like Edelman. Amendola was the only pure slot receiver on the team and Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Floyd lined up on the outside.
The Patriots pushed their roster construct even further in 2017 once Edelman was injured and the team looked strangely different from prior years. Amendola was still present as the slot receiver, but Hogan, Brandin Cooks, and Phillip Dorsett were all deep threats, while Bernard Reedy and Kenny Britt really didn’t contribute on offense.
So where does this leave the 2018 Patriots? Well, they no longer have Cooks on the team and Edelman should be back on the roster. I envision the offense operating more closely to the 2016 model, with the chance for the 2017 deep-ball element to make some appearances.
Edelman and Hogan are the only two roster locks, in my book, and that means there’s a five-veteran contest for what is likely three roster spots- and this is ignoring the potential of both 2017 practice squadder Riley McCarron and rookie Braxton Berrios to make the active roster.
Alphabetically, Kenny Britt offers an outside ability and red zone target that few other players on the team can provide. While he had a lousy 2017 season, and he had a terrible 2013 season, if you remove those two years, he’s averaged 835 yards and 5 touchdowns per season with Jeff Fisher at head coach, which is a tremendous accomplishment.
Phillip Dorsett is the logical choice to take over for Brandin Cooks in the Patriots offense, except he has none of the prior production. Dorsett is a speedster that could benefit from having already spent a season in the Patriots system and there simply weren’t targets for him with Cooks eating up most of the deep passes. Maybe he’ll emerge in his fourth season in the league.
Jordan Matthews is a top choice to replace Danny Amendola as the Patriots slot receiver and the 6’3, 215 pound receiver would provide Tom Brady the biggest slot target of his career. Matthews has proven, if slightly underwhelming, production and could play both inside and outside.
Malcolm Mitchell was a stud during the final weeks of his rookie 2016 season, but a knee injury sidelined him for all of 2017. If he can recapture that rookie-year magic, Mitchell is a lock to make the team. He was a dominant red zone target and showed great rapport with Brady. But there’s always a chance that his injury is too severe and the Patriots will have to go in a different direction.
Cordarrelle Patterson is a gadget player that provides immediate value as an All Pro returnman, but it’s easy to forget that the 6’2, 215-pound receiver with 4.4s speed also has value on offense. If we remove Patterson’s 2015 season, he’s averaged 514 yards and 3 touchdowns over his other four years, which is pretty solid production when do you factor in his elite special teams ability. He can line up in the backfield or in the slot and would provide a skill set the Patriots otherwise wouldn’t have on the roster.
Of these five players, it is likely only three will make the team. I would expect Patterson to make it because of his special teams value- none of the other four receivers play special teams. The likelihood of Patterson making the team is also why I think slot receivers like McCarron and Berrios are longshots to make the team.
And if Patterson, Edelman, and Hogan are on the roster, I wonder if the Patriots would prefer to have a couple outside receivers like Mitchell and Britt on the roster, over another slot receiver like Matthews or a speedster like Dorsett.
Then there’s always the chance that the Patriots retain six wide receivers like they did at the end of the 2017 season. Which players do you think will make the team?
Which wide receiver do you want on the Patriots roster?
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