We figured you might need a handy guide to New England’s pass-catching corps during camp. Here, according to the crack team over at Patriots.com, is a list of receivers currently on the roster (with uniform numbers), along with our take on their chances of fitting it at Foxboro. Plus: Fun Facts!
80 – Danny Amendola (5-11, 195; Sixth year in NFL, second with Patriots): The man who played with an injury that induced more Pats fans to wince than Scott Sisson’s kicking (kids, ask your parents), attempts a comeback in 2014.
Cons: Some players get an injury bug; Amendola has the injury plague. He missed several starts last year with a torn groin (ugh … I can’t even) and has played just 24 games in the past three seasons. Also – like many of his teammates – not the largest of targets.
Pros: Tallying 54 catches in 12 games, all while dealing with the aforementioned health issue, remains impressive and should point toward success if (the proverbial big “IF”) he can stay on the field.
Chances: Not exactly a hotsportztake to say he makes it.
Fun Fact: A Texas Tech product, Amendola was recruited by Michigan (among other schools) out of The Woodlands High in The Woodlands, Texas.
11 – Julian Edelman (5-10, 198; Sixth year in NFL, all with Patriots): The most experienced receiver in New England’s system who had the most prolific year of his career in 2013 seeks to duplicate that feat.
Cons: Edelman has a bit of an injury history himself, having played in only nine games in 2012.
Pros: Get him between the lines, and the dude produces. He had 105 grabs for 1,055 yards and six TDs last year. Also returns punts (12.3-yard avg.) and demonstrates the elusiveness of an over-caffeinated rabbit in a hedge maze.
Chances: Anything can happen, but – unless his meta t-shirt battle with Gronk gets violent – Edelman should stick around.
Fun Fact: According to this interview with Mike Reiss three years ago, Edelman was recruited by the CFL’s British Columbia Lions to play quarterback.
19 – Brandon LaFell (6-2, 210; Fifth year in NFL, first with Patriots): The former Carolina Panther brings his size and experience to New England to try to broaden Tom Brady’s downfield choices.
Cons: Not overly fast nor overly stout. New to the system. After facing the Pats last year (seven receptions, one TD), he fit Coach Belichick’s
free agent profile of “he beat us, we want him,” which doesn’t always work. (Paging Chad Johnson … Chad Johnson to the red phone, please.)
Pros: Also in the aforementioned Belichick
free agent opponent category? Wes Welker. (Not saying, just saying.) LaFell has also gotten praise as a diligent blocker with a bigger build than most of New England’s current collection of Ken-doll-sized pass-catchers.
Chances: Solid, but we have no way of knowing until he gets on the field and builds up a rapport with Brady, which for some has proven elusive.
Fun Fact: LaFell played defensive back as well as receiver at Lamar High in Houston, Texas, intercepting eight passes and taking back four for TDs.
18 – Matthew Slater (6-0, 210; Seventh year in NFL, all with Patriots): If we had asked you who the most senior member of the Patriots receiving group was, would you have answered Slater? Even thought that’s apparent, it feels wrong, like those stats that tell you sharks aren’t dangerous. I mean, sure, they probably won’t attack, but they’re still freaking sharks.
Cons: Has one reception in his entire career. To put that in perspective, he has one more NFL catch than you do. Calling Slater a wide receiver is like calling an appetizer the main part of the meal. It can be great – like, scallops-wrapped-in-bacon-level great – and it can set the proper tone for the evening, but no matter how much we try to pass it off as such, it’s not an entree.
Pros: A great special teams player and captain who surprises opponents with his suddenness and tenacity.
Chances: If Slater gets cut, it will have nothing to do with his prowess catching a football (or lack thereof).
Fun Fact: As a senior at Servite High in California, Slater ran the 100 and 200 meters and was the Orange County Register Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year in 2003.
SECOND- AND FIRST-YEAR GUYS
82 – Josh Boyce (5-11, 205): Boyce had nine grabs for 121 yards in a limited role last year as a rookie fourth-round pick.
Cons: Overall lack of production and diminishing playing time last season put some doubts here. We heard a lot about how smart Boyce was coming out of TCU, but football translates different ways to different people. Seriously, I’ve tried explaining the game to my three-year-old daughter but she seems completely disinterested. Probably because it isn’t the same as that goddamn Frozen.
Pros: Athletic, with notable strength and quickness. Can get loose in open space and do some damage downfield. A prime candidate for a big leap in 2014.
Chances: Tough to call, but it seems the signs should become apparent early on whether or not the offense works with Boyce on the field. A decent shot, but no shoo-in.
Fun Fact: Boyce led TCU in every receiving category as a senior, with his 66 catches ranking as the most for one season in the school’s history.
17 – Aaron Dobson (6-3, 200): Dobson hauled in the second-most catches of any rookie wide receiver in Belichick’s tenure (37 to Deion Branch’s 43 in 2002). If he can improve from last year, he’s looking like a consistent contributor at least.
Cons: Not quite as fast as desired for the ol’ deep threat. Despite his production, had an erratic rookie year. Too many drops. Some injuries.
Pros: If Dobson can get comfy in this offense, opposing defenses will have a receiver they must game-plan for. The Patriots missed his height during their loss in Miami. Brady had to pass to short targets in the end zone, which looked like he was trying to throw a piece of paper into a waste basket behind an office chair. (He figured it was there, but he had to rely on experience and hope.)
Chances: That’s a big yup. No need to elaborate.
Fun Fact: Dobson played on the inaugural International Federation of American Football (IFAF) U-19 Team USA in 2009, which won the World Championship against Canada. So, between him and Edelman: Patriots 2, Canada 0.
14 – Reggie Dunn (5-9, 178): Dunn joined New England’s practice squad late last season and brings speed and return ability to the roster.
Cons: Mite-like. Dunn went undrafted and put in some travel miles, spending time in Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Cleveland and Miami before his arrival in Gillette in January. Has not played in an NFL game. Lacks strength; weighs only slightly more than his equipment.
Pros: The fastest rookie of 2013 ran the 40 in 4.25 seconds. As a senior at Utah, he returned four kickoffs for touchdowns. Plenty of teams have let him go, but the same amount plus one have signed him.
Chances: Probably going to add on some more travel miles in 2014, but could break through as a returner.
Fun Fact: Before attending Utah, Dunn played at Compton Community College in his hometown, where he had 14 receptions for 193 yards in eight games during the 2008 season.
13 – Mark Harrison (6-3, 230): The undrafted Rutgers product missed last year with a foot injury but looks for a fresh start as a “redshirt rookie.”
Cons: Suffered in February, Harrison’s foot issue kept him on the non-football injury list for most of the season. Has he come back to 100 percent? As noted in Reiss’ Patriots blog on ESPN Boston, Harrison has the physical makeup of a bigger tight end, but Coach Belichick has denied having those plans for him.
Pros: Well, even Belichick can’t coach size. He’s a rare receiving specimen, especially in Foxboro. Ran a 4.37-second 40 and a 6.99-second 3-cone at the combine last year, also jumping 38.5 inches. Could have prize potential in the right system.
Chances: Decent, but he’s got a lot of catching up to do. Will have to shine right away to have a chance.
Fun Fact: As a senior at Bunnell High in Connecticut, Harrison had 236 yards and three TDs receiving in one game vs. Barlow.
85 – Kenbrell Thompkins (6-1, 195): Last year’s undrafted contributor showed an ability to pick up the offense quickly. He joins Boyce and Dobson as the resident Tracy Flicks: hand-raising overachievers with high expectations.
Cons: Didn’t play in three of the final four games of the regular season, dealing with foot and concussion issues. Not a downfield threat nor a space-eating possession type.
Pros: Made an impact right away as a rookie, catching four passes in Game One (at Buffalo) and finishing with 32 receptions for 466 yards and four touchdowns. With one year of working out and studying at an NFL level, could contribute with consistency as a versatile receiver.
Chances: Some have counted out Thompkins, but we think his knowledge and comfort in the system will make him a tough cut.
Fun Fact: Call these Family Fun Facts. Thompkins’ younger brother Kendal plays for the Orlando Predators in the Arena Football League. His cousin Antonio Brown plays for the Steelers.
83 – Jeremy Gallon (5-7, 184): New England’s seventh-round pick comes to camp out of Michigan, Brady’s alma mater. He set a Big Ten record last season with 369 receiving yards in one game (vs. Indiana).
Cons: Urchin-ish. This summer, the Patriots will be looking at slots more than a busload of septuagenarians in Atlantic City. Gallon has to distinguish himself not only from the other rookies but also from an experienced veteran crew. His hands have been criticized for their inconsistency.
Pros: Hauling in 89 passes for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns made Gallon worth a late-round selection. He also had a decent 4.45-second 40 at the combine and a 39.5-inch vertical at his pro day.
Chances: Much depends on the health of those around him, but, given the glut of slot receivers, we see Gallon as a solid practice squad addition.
Fun Fact: At Apopka High in Florida, Gallon played QB, RB and safety. In his career, he compiled 4,281 yards rushing on 570 carries (7.5-yard avg.) and 53 touchdowns.
84 – Derrick Johnson (5-10, 186): Coach Belichick continued to bolster the receiver position for the summer by adding Johnson, a Maine product with 60 receptions for 608 yards and two TDs last season.
Cons: Diminutive. While Maine has done well for an FCS school, the NFL hasn’t exactly been overrun by Black Bears. His 10.1-yard average per catch speaks to a certain lack of downfield presence. Didn’t contribute much on special teams.
Pros: Johnson completed the 3-cone drill in 6.60 seconds which, as far as we can tell, makes him the quickest player in a Patriots uniform (Edelman ran a 6.62). As a local guy, will have many New Englanders rooting for him, which means a lot to Coach Belichick. (Ha! Right.)
Chances: Low, but his quickness deserves notice, especially as a slot receiver. Could be fun to watch this summer.
Fun Fact: An all-county track star at Holy Trinity High in New York, Johnson helped lead his football team to the Catholic High School Football League AA Championship in 2008.
81 – Wilson Van Hooser (6-0, 197): Out of Troy, Van Hooser went undrafted but adds yet another small quickster to the pass-catching corps. Last year he caught 13 passes for 188 yards and two TDs.
Cons: The above stats leave less of an impression than a water bug over wet cement. Transferred from Tulane to Troy for his senior year, which probably sent him under the radar. Unremarkable physically; ran an okay 6.96 3-cone.
Pros: Transferred to Troy to be close to his sick mother. At Tulane, Van Hooser averaged 21.2 yards per reception as a redshirt junior. Had 16 bench presses of 225 pounds, a 39-inch vertical, and 4.15-second 20-yard shuttle at his pro day.
Chances: Low, although you’d have to think a guy with a name like Van Hooser would become an instant fan favorite, like a National Lampoon character.
Fun Fact: A two-star recruit in football at Trinity Presbyterian in Montgomery, Alabama, Hooser also lettered in hoops, soccer, and track & field.
16 – Reese Wiggins (5-10, 181): The Patriots got an undrafted tight end out of East Carolina (Justin Jones) and went back to the Pirates for a receiver.
Cons: Munchkinesque, and not in a cute way. Wiggins took in just 26 passes last year, fifth-best on the team. Not involved in the return game. Only 10 bench press reps.
Pros: Timed at 4.37 seconds in the 40 at his pro day. Also notched a 40-inch vertical and a 6.89-second 3-cone. Averaged 14.3 yards per catch and posted four TDs.
Chances: Low. Looks like the rookies – with their similar statures and talents – are all vying for practice squad eligibility and/or a spot on another team’s roster.
Fun Fact: On his East Carolina player page, Wiggins is listed as a “Fan of Chad Johnson.” I swear I wrote the LaFell entry before seeing that.
Final Roster Prediction (7): Amendola, Edelman, LaFell, Slater, Boyce, Dobson, Thompkins
Potential Surprise Cuts: LaFell, Boyce
Potential Surprise Adds: Gallon, Harrison
What say you, dear readers? Any differences of opinion, let us know below.