The New England Patriots have had one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL over the past decade. They can give much of that credit to Tom Brady. Actually, aside from a few seasons with impact wide receivers such as Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Deion Branch, the Pats have lacked that player who can help Brady separate the defense. It is worth noting that Moss and Welker were drafted by other teams, only to be acquired via trade. Since New England drafted Branch in 2002, the wide receiver position continues to be an area of frustration for the Patriots, especially in terms of those taken in the draft. Dating back to 2004, take a look at the wide receivers the Patriots have selected in the NFL Draft, followed by those they could have chosen, but passed on for one reason or another:
2004 NFL Draft – Patriots select P.K. Sam in 5th Round, with 32nd Pick. Passed on Michael Jenkins, Devery Henderson or Jerricho Cotchery. Nothing exactly to get overly upset about.
2005 NFL Draft – Patriots select 0 wide receivers. Passed on Vincent Jackson. Could have been a nice addition.
2006 NFL Draft – Patriots select Chad Jackson in 2nd Round, with 4th pick. Passed on Greg Jennings, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston and Brad Smith. This year could have been special.
2007 NFL Draft – Patriots select 0 wide receivers. Passed on Robert Meachem, Sidney Rice and James Jones. Decent, but nothing worth losing any sleep over.
2008 NFL Draft – Patriots select Mat Slater in 5th Round, with 18th pick. Passed on Donnie Avery, Jordy Nelson, Eddie Royal, Desean Jackson, Earl Bennett, Harry Douglas, Pierre Garcon and Stevie Johnson. Quite a few difference-makers among that group.
2009 NFL Draft – Patriots select Brandon Tate in 3rd Round, with 19th pick and Julian Edelman in 7th Round, with 23rd pick. At least Edelman was a solid pick. Passed on Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. Aside from Wallace, I’ll actually give the thumbs up to New England.
2010 NFL Draft – Patriots select Taylor Price in 3rd Round, with 26th pick. Passed on Golden Tate, Emmanuel Sanders, Eric Decker, Andre Roberts, Riley Cooper and Antonio Brown. While Tate, Sanders and Brown would have been great, it is worth noting that this was the year that the Pats drafted Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. It was a formidable 1-2 punch until the latter’s true colors shined and he wound up in jail.
2011 NFL Draft – Patriots select 0 wide receivers. Passed on Torrey Smith, Randall Cobb and Cecil Shorts. The Pats focused on running back in this draft, selecting Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley.
2012 NFL Draft – Patriots select Jeremy Ebert in 7th Round, with 32 pick. Passed on Brian Quick, Alshon Jeffery, Ruben Randle, Mohammed Sanu and T.Y. Hilton. The Pats focused on defense in the first round here with Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Alfonzo Dennard, so they get a free pass with this one.
2013 NFL Draft – Patriots select Aaron Dobson in 2nd Round, with 29th pick and Josh Boyce in 4th Round, with 5th pick. Passed on Justin Hunter, Terrance Williams, Keenan Allen, Markus Wheaton and Kenny Stills. Allen would have been nice, but others still looking to prove themselves.
2014 NFL Draft – Patriots select Jeremy Gallon in 7th Round, with 29th pick. Passed on Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, John Brown, Bruce Ellington, Martavis Bryant and Josh Huff. They are all rookies, so only time will tell.
While the NFL Draft is never an exact science, the Patriots certainly could have selected quite a few playmakers at wide receiver in the NFL Draft over the past decade. What will the 2015 NFL Draft bring for the Patriots? Will New England select any of the top prospects at the position, including Amari Cooper, Dorial Green-Beckham, Ty Montgomery, Sammie Coates, Jaelen Strong, Rashad Greene, DeVante Parker or Kevin White? Or, will the Patriots once again pass on drafting highly touted wide receivers in order to address other needs, further ignoring a glaring problem on offense?
Stay tuned next April/May.