For the third time this offseason, the Patriots’ wide receiving corps has undergone a re-do — New England picked up four wide receivers on draft weekend, adding rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce in the second and fourth round, as well as undrafted free agents T.J. Moe and Kenbrell Thompkins. They join a group that includes newcomers Danny Amendola, Mike Jenkins and Donald Jones.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged in an interview with the NFL Network Saturday the team has undergone a “re-do” at the position this offseason, and expanded on that once the draft was done Saturday night.
“Look at the guys who have caught balls at that position and we don’t have a lot of them on our team,” he said. “[Julian] Edelman and then a couple balls here and there, so we’ll see how it all comes together. I don’t know.
“We’ve gone through that with other positions on our team. We did that with the tight end position a couple years ago. We did it at the running back position when that turned over. Certainly, almost the entire defense has turned over, other than Vince [Wilfork]. The specialists all turned over; other than Steve [Gostkowski], they all turned over a couple years ago. It’s part of football.”
With that in mind — for the third time this offseason — here’s another reset of the Patriots’ depth chart at wide receiver.
Julian Edelman: While everyone else is starting from zero with the quarterback, Edelman will certainly have an opportunity to gain reps this spring and summer because right now, he’ll be the only guy coming back who caught a pass from Brady last season. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder, who was a seventh-round pick of the Patriots in 2009, has spent the last four seasons with New England, and has 69 catches for 714 yards and four touchdowns as a pro. He was off to a strong start last season, but a late September injury seemed to knock him off track. He’ll figure into the mix in the return game, and at least at this point, he likely figures as a backup to Amendola.
Danny Amendola: The most notable addition of the offseason, Amendola does have some positional versatility, but right now, he projects as No. 1 option in the slot. The 27-year-old had a career-high 85 catches for St. Louis in 2010, and while he won’t be the only one asked to pick up the slack from the loss of Wes Welker, he’ll handle the bulk of the responsibility. It’s obviously very early in the process, but the 5-foot-11, 188-pounder is off to a good start when it comes to his relationship with the quarterback — the two were spotted working out together at USC earlier this spring.
Donald Jones: Jones — who has already proven to be a pretty good Tweeter — is a 6-foot, 208 pounder who has spent three seasons in the league, all with the Bills, and has 82 career receptions. His best year came in 2012 when he caught 41 passes for 443 yards and four touchdowns. He has some positional versatility, but right now, likely figures into the mix as a possible No. 3 receiver, but that could change with the development of rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce.
Mike Jenkins: Patriots fans reacted a little angrily to the addition of the 30-year-old Jenkins, but the 6-foot-4, 214-pounder has been able to put up fair numbers over the course of his career. The 30-year-old, who has had knee issues the last few years, caught 40 passes for 449 yards and two touchdowns last season with the Vikings. This looks like the Patriots taking a chance on a veteran and seeing what he has left. We should know pretty early on how much Jenkins has left — if there’s anything left, he could also be a possible option as a No. 3 receiver.
Aaron Dobson: The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Dobson (along with PK Sam, the tallest receiver Belichick has ever drafted) should get every opportunity to make an impact on the New England passing game right out of the gate as a possible “X receiver.” The second-round pick, who compares favorably to Anquan Boldin in his size, skill set and overall approach to the game, had 165 catches for 2,398 yards and 24 touchdowns over the course of his career at Marshall. He projects as an outside-the-numbers threat in the NFL.
Josh Boyce: While Dobson is known for his physical gifts, this fourth-round pick made his mark as a collegian in large part because he’s a physical freak who made a huge splash at the combine. The 5-foot-11, 203-pound Boyce had 161 catches for 2,535 yards and 22 touchdowns in his three seasons as a collegian. He does have some positional versatility, and while his agility and footwork (he showed tremendous amounts of both by acing the 3-cone and shuttle events at the combine) suggests he can thrive in the slot, he also has the straight-line speed to survive on the outside.
TJ Moe: An undrafted free agent who was courted by several other teams before signing with the Patriots, Moe is a 5-foot-10, 204-pounder out of Mizzou who caught 94 passes the last two seasons — 54 passes for 649 yards and four touchdowns as a junior and 40 passes for 399 yards and one touchdown last season. Like Boyce, he crushed the 3-cone drill, which suggests a future in the slot as opposed to the outside. Boyce and Moe the two intriguing young receiving prospects.
Kenbrell Thompkins: The 6-foot-1, 193-pounder out of Cincinnati started the past two seasons with the Bearcats. He had 34 receptions for 541 yards and two touchdowns as a senior after posting 44 catches, 536 yards and two touchdowns the prior year. Right now, he projects as a likely practice squadder.
Brandon Lloyd: He’s still out there as a free-agent possibility, but the addition of the two rookies, as well as the signing of Jones (and to a lesser extent, Jenkins) doesn’t bode well for a potential return for Lloyd. The 31-year-old was released earlier this spring, just prior to the date the team was contractually obligated to deliver a $3 million roster bonus. In his one season with the Patriots, Lloyd had 74 catches for 911 yards and four touchdowns. I suppose that if the Patriots were in a fix because of injury or some other unforeseen circumstance, they might give him a call, but at this point, it seems unlikely he’ll be back on Foxboro.
Deion Branch: The 5-foot-9, 195-pound veteran — who will be 34 before the start of the 2013 season — has carved out an impressive career since arriving in the league in 2002. His days of working as a true impact receiver are over — he ended the 2012 season with 16 catches for 145 yards in 10 games for New England. All that being said, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see him around for at least part of the 2013 season on a part-time basis, particularly if the Patriots are faced with an injury issue.
Kamar Aiken, Andre Holmes: The two receivers spent time in Foxboro as practice squadders last season. Aiken ended the season on the practice squad and Holmes was added to the roster in January after spending part of the 2012 season with the Cowboys.