Patriots receiver drills figure to be pretty crowded this summer. With Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch, Donte' Stallworth, Chad Ochocinco, Julian Edelman and Anthony Gonzalez as the biggest names in the group, it should be one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL.
Welker joined WEEI this afternoon and explained how New England's cupboard full of receivers reminds him of the Patriots' record-setting 2007 season.
"I think it's great. It's competition," Welker said. "It's no different from Coach Belichick's philosophy in the past, and that's to sign guys to help the football team win games. Whatever is best for the team, he's going to do. I think there are guys that can really help and contribute for us.
"When you look at the '07 season, we had people like Kelley Washington. Donte' Stallworth. Jabar Gaffney. We had Reche Caldwell going into that year. Randy Moss. We were stacked with some pretty good receivers going into that year, and I feel like it's the same type of deal, stacking up, and finding out who can really contribute and who can really help us this coming year."
If this receiving group can perform anything like the one from New England's undefeated regular season five years ago, the Patriots will be a happy bunch. Tom Brady threw for a record 50 touchdown passes that season, while Randy Moss caught a record 23 of those scores. Welker had 112 receptions, while Stallworth and Gaffney finished with 46 and 36 catches, respectively.
Something the Patriots didn't have in 2007? A dynamic set of game-changing tight ends. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez figure to be major components in the Patriots offensive schemes again, meaning accomplished receivers like Gaffney, Branch, Stallworth and Ochocinco could be competing to be Brady's fourth or fifth option in the passing game.
Friday's practice participation/injury report for Monday night's Patriots-Ravens game:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder)
DB Jordan Richards (knee)
LB Elandon Roberts (hamstring)
DB Eric Rowe (hamstring)
WR/SpT Matthew Slater (foot)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Crockett Gilmore (thigh)
LB Terrell Suggs (not injury related)
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh)
C Jeremy Zuttah (not injury related)
G Alex Lewis (ankle)
G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
FOXBORO -- It seems unlikely that a 23-year-old who has spent much of his life around sports would be unaware of how fantasy football works. But Malcolm Mitchell insisted on Friday that he was that 23-year-old.
Over the past seven days, Mitchell has been the second-most added player in ESPN.com fantasy leagues behind only Steelers tight end Ladarius Green. The rookie wideout went undrafted in many fantasy leagues before the start of the regular season, but his production has spiked over the last three weeks making him one of a hot commodity for people headed into the fantasy playoffs.
In wins over the Niners, Jets and Rams, Mitchell has caught 17 passes for 222 yards and three scores.
"I have family members mention it, but I never know what they're talking about," Mitchell said when asked if he was asked about his newfound popularity among fans of fantasy football. "I'm not sure how that works. If someone said it, I'd probably have no idea what it means."
A fewer lockers down from Mitchell is the stall of rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who cut into Mitchell's back-and-forth with reporters joking, "I've got him on my team!"
Mitchell's confusion over the phenomenon that is fantasy football seemed to be genuine as he asked questions about how teams operate and what fantasy free-agency means.
Those who've picked him up probably don't mind that Mitchell is in the dark on the subject -- and the same goes for the Patriots coaching staff, it's safe to assume -- as long as he continues to do his job as well as he's done it in recent weeks.