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New England Patriots Wide Receivers Analysis & Fantasy Projections

The New England Patriots are arguably one of the toughest squads to forecast in 2013.  Familiar faces that fueled ’s consistently impressive numbers are gone.  In their place stands a hodge-podge of mostly unproven rookies and free agent cast-offs.  This article will predict which wide receivers will make the final roster in 2013 and project their statistical and fantasy point output based on the standard scoring system.

The Great Wide Receiver Exodus of 2013

new england patriots wide receivers

Only two of the top six receiving targets from the 2012 Patriots squad remain: Rob Gronkowski & Julian Edelman.  However, both of these players are returning from significant injuries and are starting training camp on the PUP.  Gronkowski’s roster spot is 100% secure; Edelman’s is not.

Wes Welker left town for greener pastures and larger paychecks in Denver.  Brandon Lloyd, who enjoyed his second best season as a pro with the Patriots in 2012, was unceremoniously cut during this off-season as rumors swirled that he wasn’t a “good locker room fit”.

In what became the most shocking story of an NFL off-season filled with numerous arrests, Aaron Hernandez was charged with first degree murder in the killing of an acquaintance.  He was cut from the team shortly after being charged and is currently being held without bail at the Bristol County House of Correction in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Danny Woodhead, a fan favorite who accounted for 747 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns 2012, is now with the .  Even veterans and Donte’ Stallworth are no longer with the team.

Returning Veterans

Three wide receivers are returning from last year’s team: Julian Edelman, Kamar Aiken, & special teams ace Matthew Slater.  Edelman has worked both as a receiver and a kick returner for the Pats, but is still recovering from a foot which was broken in December and re-injured in May.  He missed OTAs and entered camp on the PUP list, but was recently activated and practiced for the first time on August 1st.

Aiken played in one game last season, performing on special teams and getting three offensive snaps, but didn’t record a stat.  He spent the majority of the season as an inactive or on the practice squad.  Slater is listed as a wide receiver, but his play has been relegated to special teams during his time in New England.

Free Agent Acquisitions

Even though they lost almost all of their top WR contributors from last year, no one can argue that the Patriots have sat on their hands when it comes to refurbishing their roster.

After refusing to match the ’ $12 million contract offer to Wes Welker, the Pats quickly signed to a five year deal.  Amendola has had problems staying healthy over his career (playing a full 16 game season only once), but when on the field he has the potential to be an impact player.

The Patriots also acquired Michael Jenkins this offseason and he is currently the biggest wide receiver on the roster at 6’4″ and 214 lbs.  Jenkins has been a journeyman for his entire career, putting up mediocre stats during his seven years with the Atlanta Falcons and two years with the Minnesota Vikings.  Over his career he has averaged 492 yards receiving and 2.7 touchdowns per year.

In May, the Patriots brought-in Lavelle Hawkins who spent the last five years buried deep on the Titans’ depth chart and never emerged as a true starter.  His best year was 2011 when he hauled in 47 receptions for 470 yards and a touchdown.  That was the only year of his five-year career in which he played all 16 games.  Hawkins was released from the team on July 31st.

Rookie Additions

There is no question that the Patriots are investing in youth at the wide receiver position.  New England spent two of their first five draft choices on receivers and signed four undrafted rookies this off-season.

Draft Picks

The Pats spent their second round pick on Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson.  Dobson has good size at 6’3” and 200 lbs. and with a good training camp could easily find himself in the starting lineup.

In the fourth round, the Patriots selected TCU wide-out Josh Boyce.  At TCU, Boyce was the all-time leader in touchdown receptions, second all-time in receiving yards and third all-time in total receptions.  Boyce missed spring workouts with a broken toe, but is now healthy and showing his ability to make big plays downfield.

Undrafted Rookies

Mark Harrison originally worked out for the , but due to a failed physical (foot injury) did not sign with the team.  New England, impressed with his size (6’3″ & 200 lbs) and speed (4.46 40-yard dash), brought him aboard and he is battling to make the 53-man roster.

Kenbrell Thompkins, a wide receiver with a bit of a checkered past, was also a post-draft rookie signing.  Thompkins was a consistent, but never a stellar college player.  However, he has showed promise in rookie minicamp and the Patriots invested only $5000 in guaranteed money on the rookie.  For more on Kenbrell Thompkins check out: The Radar List – Deep Sleepers To Keep On Your Radar.

Following the release of veteran receiver Donald Jones, the Patriots signed another pair of rookie free agents in Perez Ashford and Quentin Sims.  Ashford spent four years at Northern Illinois catching passes and returning kicks and was with the Browns briefly before signing on with the Pats.  Sims has intriguing size at 6’3″ and 208 pounds, but was never an impact player at Georgia Tech or Tennessee-Martin.  He ws released on July 31st.

Predicting the Final Roster

new england patriots wide receivers

In 2012 the Patriots carried six wide receivers which included special teamer Matthew Slater.  While it is possible that they will only carry five total wide receivers in 2013, we’ll assume they’ll take the same approach as last year and keep six.

Shoe-Ins

Based on their contract and draft position (and barring serious injury), we know that Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson will be on the final 53-man roster.  Slater’s spot is also safe due to this special teams prowess.  The remaining wide receiver depth chart is as clear as mud, but we’ll use what we know to take an educated guess at who will make the final cut.

Long Shots

Early word out of Patriots camp is that the rookies are outplaying ‘Molasses’ Mike Jenkins.  That isn’t good news for the veteran we believe he will fall to the wayside as camp proceeds.

Of the four undrafted rookies, only Kenbrell Thompkins has stood-out thus in training camp.  With such a crowded receiving corps and only so many balls to go around this preseason, we don’t project any of the other undrafted rookies making the final cut.  That means Mark Harrison, Perez Ashford, and Quentin Sims are goners.

On the Bubble

With Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, & Matthew Slater being locks and Mark Harrison, Perez Ashford, and Quentin Sims on the way out, that leaves the following 4 players vying for the 3 remaining roster spots:

  • Julian Edelman
  • Karmar Aiken
  • Kenbrell Thompkins
  • Josh Boyce

Julian Edelman doubles as a return man and has an intimate knowledge of the offense.  He also has the distinction of being the only current Patriots wide receiver to catch a Tom Brady pass last season.  Now that Edelman is back on the playing field we’ll have to wait and see how his foot holds up.  We believe that Edelman’s familiarity with the Patriots’ system will give him and edge and earn him a spot on the final 53.

Kamar Aiken has made some impressive plays in camp and can also contribute on special teams.  However, the team already has a wide receiver dedicated to special teams in Slater so Aiken must outplay the other wide receivers in order to make the roster.  We believe that he will push for a spot, but will ultimately land back on the practice squad to start the season.

Josh Boyce, the Pat’s fourth round draft selection, is making up for time lost due to injuries and has impressed early in camp.  He is a versatile player who has rare blend of intelligence, toughness, speed, and coordination that the Patriots will undoubtedly find a way to utilize.  By the end of camp we believe Boyce will have shown enough to ensure his roster spot is safe.

Kenbrell Thompkins has been the biggest story of training camp thus far.  Some analysts have stated that he may already be the best receiver on the field not named Danny Amendola.  Although he started camp as one of biggest long-shots to make the team, he has quickly emerged as a play-maker and we believe he will be a surprise addition to the final 53-man roster.

Wide Receiver Statistical Fantasy Projections

new england patriots wide receivers

Estimating Tom Brady’s Passing Numbers

2013 marks the most extensive wide receiver turnover during the Tom Brady era.  The only other year which comes close is the 2007 Patriots squad which saw the additions of Wes Welker, Randy Moss, & Donte’ Stallworth.  Brady saw his stats explode that season, but the influx of wide receiver talent in 2013 is much less proven.

This year Tom Brady’s fantasy ADP is 52nd overall compared to 4th overall in 2012.  That’s quite a drop and it’s obvious that fantasy owners have taken note of the wide receiver turnover.    If we look at Brady’s worst year as a Patriot (basing on passer rating) it’d be his 2002 campaign  when he put up the following statistics:

  • 3764 Passing Yards
  • 28 Passing TDs
  • 14 Interceptions
  • 110 Rushing Yards
  • 1 Rushing TD
  • 5 Fumbles

Brady’s passing distribution broke down like this:

  • Wide Receivers: 2428 yards, 13 TDs
  • Running Backs: 823 yards, 8 TDs
  • Tight Ends: 515 yards, 6 TDs

Because of the high turnover rate, we believe the Patriots’ 2002 wide receiver stats are a good starting point for projecting how the 2013 squad will perform. However, because Brady has grown as a quarterback since 2002 we are elevating those numbers slightly and projecting about 2800 yards and 15 TDs for New England wide receivers in 2013.

Projecting Wide Receiver Production

So, we need to find a way to distribute 2800 yards and 15 touchdowns among our projected wide receivers.  We can safely remove Matthew Slater from the discussion since he contributes solely to special teams.  If we order the remaining wide receivers based on their our anticipated statistical output, we have the following:

1.      Danny Amendola  - 1050 yards, 7 TDs

2.      Aaron Dobson - 655 yards, 3 TDs

3.      Julian Edelman - 475 yards, 2 TD

4.      Josh Boyce - 335 yards, 2 TDs

5.      Kenbrell Thompkins - 285 yards, 1 TD

For those configuring your 2013 wide receiver rankings, these stats translate into the following fantasy points:

1.      Danny Amendola  - 148 Total Fantasy Points (9.2 Points Per Game)

2.      Aaron Dobson - 83.5 Total Fantasy Points (5.2 Points Per Game)

3.      Julian Edelman - 59.5 Total Fantasy Points (3.7 Points Per Game)

4.      Josh Boyce - 45.5 Total Fantasy Points (2.8 Points Per Game)

5.      Kenbrell Thompkins - 34.5 Total Fantasy Points (2.2 Points Per Game)

It is important to note that the above numbers only consider those fantasy points accumulated through receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.  Edelman and Boyce could easily earn an extra touchdown or two each on the ground or through special teams play.

Conclusion

The uncertainty surrounding the wide receiver position makes the New England Patriots’ training camp one of the most intriguing to watch this preseason.  There is no doubt that after Danny Amendola this squad becomes very difficult to project.  Shrewd fantasy owners can find some great value in the Patriots wide receivers corps during the middle rounds.  The projections in this article should provide the insight necessary to give you a leg-up at your 2013 fantasy draft.

Thanks for check out: New England Patriots Wide Receiver Analysis & Fantasy Projections!

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Images Courtesy of Zimbio & ESPN.com.

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