Patriot Priorities For 2015: Wide Receivers
It may not have been Tom Brady's best statistical season on record, but it certainly ranked as one of his most efficient, especially when capped-off with an MVP performance in Super Bowl XLIX.
There is no doubt that Brady can still throw with the best of the QBs in the NFL. Even without a truly dominant No.1 wide out, he got the job done, managing to throw for 4,109 yards and 33 TDs during the regular season. That is actually impressive given that his best receiver is a tight end, not a wide receiver.
And that's why I'm including tight ends in this evaluation. Brady depends on his big guys more than any QB, and it's lucky he has the best in the business to target. So let's get down to it...
The only weapon Brady has to replace is Shane Vereen. He left behind his 447 yards of receiving along with three TDs for greener pastures in New York, seeking more money than the New England Patriots were willing to sacrifice for a third-down, receiving back. Hopefully the draft, or one of the newer guys can take up that slack. James White and Jonas Gray could both be options in that role.
But as for receivers, Brady has a great complement of talent on the wings.
1. Of course we start with Rob Gronkowski. As mentioned above, he was the team's leading receiver with 1,124 yards and 12 TDs. Gronk is simply irreplaceable in this offense. Going into 2015, he is the nightmare for every defense that faces him.
2. A nice complement to Gronk is Tim Wright, who came in mid-stream to add six TDs from the end of the line. For a guy with no off-season work in this offense, he fits in very well. With a full off-season in 2015, he could become nearly as dangerous as Gronk.
3. It is doubtful that Bill Belichick keeps Michael Hoomanawanui AND Scott Chandler behind the first two TEs, but then again, the myriad of possibilities in that mixture could be volatile. Who knows what BB has up his sleeveless hoodie.
4. Julian Edelman just might be the best decision made in the post-Wes Welker era of Patriot football. He may have fallen short of 100 catches in 2014, but there is no reason to believe that there is a ceiling on his ability to produce Welker-ish numbers for many years to come. He may only have had four TDs, but he was clutch in getting open and making big plays when Brady needed them.
5. Brandon LaFell was not considered a true, deep threat, yet he found his rhythm by week three, and ended the season with 953 yards and a second-best-on-the-team seven TDs. But LaFell has at least two more years to build on that rapport with Brady; that is a good omen for the Patriots.
6. Another small but crafty receiver is Danny Amendola, who saw somewhat limited action, but really shone when given the opportunity. Perhaps due to some previous injury history, Danny was held back from consistent contribution, but really came up big when it counted. His Super Bowl TD showed his ability to step in whenever necessary. His 24.1 return yard average speaks volumes, too. He also showed class by taking a discount to help with the salary cap.
7. The guys I really want to see break-out are Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, and Brian Tyms. I have my doubts about Dobson; it seems that the NFL lights were too bright for him, and he is hampered by injuries that have limited his playing time.
I have the same concerns for Boyce, who has also battled injuries and hasn't been able to contribute in this offense.
I am excited to see Tyms assume a greater role, considering his similarity to Randy Moss and his obvious explosiveness. Due to the depth chart, his lack of reps makes his potential even more tantalizing. His two TDs in consecutive preseason games, as well as, a 43 yard TD from Brady against the Bills should have Patriot fans chomping at the bit for him to assume a hefty payload in 2015.
This is where the Patriots excel- finding talent that other teams overlook. The offense will be in great shape and I don't see much of a need to waste a draft pick on this position this year. We have all we need in-house and should prioritize other positions first. Check out my other articles on positions of real need, with more to come in the days leading up to the draft.