Curran: Pats may still go wide in draft

Curran: Pats may still go wide in draft
March 30, 2012, 12:06 am
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During a back-and-forth with some Twitter folks on Thursday, there were virtual eyebrows raised when I was asked if I felt the Patriots would go "all defense" in next month's draft and I answered that wide receiver and offensive line were possible need spots as well.

"Ummmm, wide receiver?" one followed asked dubiously.

Well, yeah. Wide receiver. When you look at the 10 guys on the roster at that position, only two are dead-mortal locks to be on the field for a huge chunk of offensive plays in 2012.
They are Wes Welker, who is soon-to-be 31 and carrying the franchise tag, and Brandon Lloyd, who's 30 and entering the first year of a three-year deal.

The others are as follows:

Donte Stallworth, 31, just signed a one-year deal worth 875,000.

Deion Branch, 33 when the seasons starts, just signed a one-year deal.

Chad Ochocinco, 34, two years left on three-year deal, 1 million salary this year.

Julian Edelman, 25, one-year left on four-year deal, 615,000 salary, primarily a returner, utility player.

Matthew Slater, 26, newly-signed three-year deal, 5.4 million deal, primarily a special teams player.

Anthony Gonzalez, 27, just signed a one-year deal worth 716,000

Tiquan Underwood, 25, end-of-roster player trying to make the team.

Britt Davis, 25, practice squad player trying to make the team.

Some believe the emergence of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski as potent weapons mitigates the Patriots' need for true wideouts. But when you look at the roster, you see only one "outside" receiver that the Patriots have long-term commitment to. That's Lloyd.

The Patriots need talented, developmental depth at the position and that should come in the draft.

Bill Belichick seemed to indicate as much this week at the owner's meetings when he said, "You always try to have competition at every position. Weve always had about that many receivers going to camp -- 10, 11, somewhere in there -- and well see what the roster limit ends up being this year.

"There are some guys that I'm sure will be at that position that arent even on our team right now, that were not even talking about. Its just a process."

The Patriots' record of drafting and developing wideouts is woeful. Taylor Price, Brandon Tate, Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson all went belly-up. Branch and David Givens - selected in the second and seventh rounds in 2002 - are the only wide receivers New England drafted and got major production from in the past decade.

Is it the coaching? Is it the system? Is it bad luck? Is it a position the Patriots don't value and believe can be addressed with smart, veteran players who are mid-tier free agents?

It's probably all of the above to some degree.

But the glut of talented wide receivers in the 2012 draft means that New England will have plenty of chances to target a player they like in the first 100 picks or so.

Just using one draft analysts forecast, there are 12 players who project as being draftable in the third round or before.

At the tail end of the first round and into the second, the Patriots could target a project player like Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech, or a production animal like Mohamed Sanu from Rutgers who doesn't have Hill's speed or measurables but caught 115 balls last season.

As we head into March, we'll look deeper at the wideout class and try to figure which one might make the most sense in New England.

Until then, wideout? Yes. Wideout.