FOXBORO -- The Patriots spent two picks on receivers in last year's draft. They took Aaron Dobson with their second pick of the second round and then doubled up on the spot in the fourth round when they selected Josh Boyce.
At the time, the team had a clear need at wide receiver. Beyond Julian Edelman and free-agent acquisition Danny Amendola, there was plenty of room for depth to be filled in. After the draft, the team acquired TJ Moe and Kenbrell Thompkins as undrafted free agents.
None of the rookies had home-run seasons in 2013.
Dobson had an up-and-down year, dealing with drops and injuries at different points while also chipping in some strong games as a threat on the outside. He played in 11 games and made 37 grabs for 519 yards and four touchdowns.
Boyce was injured before the draft and got a late start in the team's rookie minicamp. He too was banged up throughout the course of the year and played in six games, making nine catches for 121 yards.
Moe suffered a season-ending Achilles injury before training camp. Thompkins was nearly as productive as Dobson, chipping in with 32 catches, 466 yards and four scores in 11 games.
The Patriots added to their receiving group this offseason when they signed free agent Brandon LaFell, and Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio wouldn't rule out the selection of another wideout in this year's draft.
Even after addressing the position twice in the 2013 draft, the Patriots aren't inclined to let a good player pass them by no matter the position.
"I think what you don't want to do is pass on a good football player, regardless of your circumstances," Caserio said. "We talked about this a little bit in years past when we drafted Nate [Solder]. With Matt [Light], we thought he was going to be coming back, and then we had Sebastian [Vollmer]. When we drafted Nate, at that time, did we necessarily need to draft that player? Maybe, maybe not. But we felt that was a player that we had conviction about. We felt good about the player and we'd figure out a way to utilize him.
"You never want to pass up a player . . . Look if they're equal value, maybe you go to a different position, but if there's a good football player and he's head and shoulders above the rest, internally we just have to make that decision. You don't want to pass on a player just because he has a position where there might be numbers or volume or whatever the case may be."
LSU's Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, Boise State's Geraldo Boldewijn, Clemson's Martavis Bryant, Virginia Tech's D.J. Coles, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, Texas A&M's Mike Evans, USC's Marqise Lee and a handful of others have all reportedly been in contact with the Patriots this spring.
While Caserio mentioned this year's class of receivers as particularly deep (along with running backs and defensive linemen), he explained why it's sometimes so difficult to determine which players at that position will be successful at the NFL level.
"The receiver position in general, there's so many more multiples that are involved, which a lot of these players don't see," Caserio said. "One of the things that's come into play is the use of the high-frequency, high-tempo offense. You run a play, you sprint to the line and they get a play off within five-to-ten seconds. A player stands in one spot, chances are they're repeating the same play, and the complexity of coverages I would say is minimal because you can't have a lot of calls defensively to combat the pace and the speed of what a team's doing offensively.
"There's definitely more multiples coverage-wise they're going to see on a week-to-week basis [in the NFL]. A lot of the time it's the proximity of the defender between himself and the receiver. I would say the number of teams that actually play at the line of scrimmage defensively on a consistent play-by-play basis is very small. The majority of the time, the defender is five, six, seven yards off so he has free access into the defense so there's less he has to deal with at the line of scrimmage. Now you fast forward. I would say the majority of the time, you're going to have a defender in your face on the perimeter or in the slot as well. Inside there's some different components that go into play. There's just more multiples, more variety of coverages, more disguise. The ability to think quickly and to react to what you see some can do that better than others from the sheer fact that they haven't really been able to do it."