FOXBORO - Nine NFL drafts have come and gone since the Patriots drafted Deion Branch and David Givens. And in those nine drafts, the Patriots have failed to find a wide receiver who can stick with their program for the long term. The latest to get flushed out came Saturday when Taylor Price, a third-round pick out of Ohio in 2010, was released. Price, like so many other receivers the Patriots have selected, was a bit of a project. Coming out of a run-based system at Ohio, he had a lot to learn about playing in a sophisticated and ever-evolving NFL passing offense like the Patriots'. The fact he wasn't able to join the Patriots until after his class at Ohio graduated put him three weeks behind going into the 2010 offseason training programs and head coach Bill Belichick cited that as a reason Price was slow to develop. He played in one game last season, the season finale, and had three catches. Those were the only three catches he made for the team. Belichick and offensive coordinator praised Price in August, saying,"He knows the offense better. His conditioning, his experience in the system last year. Of course, the offense that we run is quite a bit different than what he ran in college, so there's a lot of learning and technique work there. I think he's definitely way ahead of where he was last year."But he still couldn't get on the field. Last week against the Eagles, with Chad Ochocinco down because of a hamstring injury, the Patriots put Tiquan Underwood on the field instead of Price. Underwood's experience in New England was a cup of coffee at the end of training camp. So Price, who seemed to have the build and physical skills to be a player similar to Givens, washes out of the system. He joins Bethel Johnson, P.K. Sam, Chad Jackson, and Brandon Tate as wideouts New England's drafted with minimal returns on the investment. The other two wideouts they've taken - Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman - are still on the team and, thanks to their versatility, are making contributions elsewhere. What are the reasons for the Patriots' inability to develop wideouts? They've done great with their two young tight ends. They can pluck defensive linemen at the end of the draft and get terrific returns. They've done an outstanding job developing offensive linemen and running backs. But wideout is a blind spot. One reason is they don't put high value on the position and they always seem to be buying on the cheap. Sam was only 20 when the Patriots took him in the fifth round in 2004. He was immature. Tate was a third-round pick coming off a blown ACL when the Patriots took him in 2009. He didn't pan out and was released at the end of camp this year. The Patriots traded up to take Chad Jackson in the second round in 2006 but he was a disaster, uninterested in giving max effort and seemingly overmatched by the NFL. And Price was another dice roll. Living in the bargain bin has not yielded great results. The Patriots haven't really suffered. They are, after all, 22-5 since the start of last season. But with Wes Welker in his 30s and in the final year of his contract (he'll no doubt be franchised if the Patriots won't meet his contract demands) and Ochocinco a total non-factor, the wide receiver cupboard is virtually bare. Will this cause them to re-evaluate their stance and take awideout with a solid collegiate resume and a bright future in the NFL instead of taking projects and crossing their fingers that it works out? That's a question for after the season. Until then, we are in the Tiquan Underwood Era.
While Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia represented the Patriots at Ohio State and Notre Dame, respectively, the team had other representatives at high-profile pro days around the country including Stanford, Missouri and Utah.
Here are a few of the players the Patriots were able to get a better look at . . .
Stanford: The Patriots have shown plenty of interest in players coming from David Shaw's program in the past (Cameron Fleming, Jordan Richards), and they'll undoubtedly appreciate the talents brought to the table by two of the school's projected first-rounders in Solomon Thomas and Christian McCaffrey. Thomas is a powerful 6-foot-3, 273-pound defensive lineman who can play just about anywhere up front. McCaffrey, meanwhile, is one of the most athletic running backs in this year's class. He worked out as a receiver on Thursday and could fill a multitude of roles as a pro, whether it's as a back, a slot receiver or a kick-returner. The Patriots would need to trade back into the first round to have a prayer at landing either player.
Utah: The Utes have a handful of draftable offensive linemen and one who is expected to come off the board in the first round. Garrett Bolles, who lit up the combine, might be the top tackle available -- and there are those who believe he's just starting to tap into his potential. Isaac Asiata is a monster guard (6-3, 323, 34-inch arms) who put up more bench-press reps than any other offensive lineman at this year's combine, and center JJ Dielman is an intriguing later-round option. One of the quickest risers in the pre-draft process? Marcus Williams, who is an eye-popping athlete. He was top-five for those at his position at the combine in the vertical, broad jump and three-cone drill, and he looks like a ready-made NFL free safety. The Patriots are pretty well stocked at that spot, but if they're picking at the bottom of the first round and going with the best player available, they may very well think that's Williams.
Missouri: Defensive players were in focus for scouts and coaches at the Tigers pro day, and Charles Harris was the headliner. One of the most impressive players within a very deep class of edge defenders, the 6-3, 253-pounder appears to have the quickness and burst to give NFL tackles fits. One of Harris' teammates up front, Josh Augusta, ran a pretty ridiculous 40-yard dash Thursday, clocking in just a shade under five seconds. Ridiculous, why? Because he's a defensive tackle who wighed 390 pounds during the season. That's moving. Augusta dropped down to 347 after being diagnosed with a thyroid issue in January and is looking to get to 335. Corner Aarion Penton can competes well for the football, but his size (5-9, 177) may scare teams off until late in the draft.
The Patriots and Darrelle Revis have not discussed a deal that would bring the cornerback back to New England, according to CSNNE's Tom Curran.
This comes after CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported multiple anonymous NFL executives were convinced Revis would return to the Patriots.
Revis spent one season with the Patriots in 2014 when New England won Super Bowl XLIX. However, the Patriots did not pick up Revis' second-year option in the following offseason, and he elected to sign with the New York Jets in free agency. He played 14 games in 2015 and 15 games in 2016. He finished last season with 53 tackles, five pass deflections and one interception
The 31-year-old cornerback declined significantly during the 2016 season. Even Tom Brady said he noticed Revis was struggling phyiscally in the Patriots' Week 12 win over the Jets.
"I know he's not feeling great," Brady said in November. "I could see after the game, he winced a few times getting up. It looked like his leg was bothering him a little bit. But he's still very close on a lot of those plays. Even though you're hitting them, he's still very competitive.
"He's been one of the great players in the league for a long time. He's given up more plays this year than in the past, but you've gotta have a lot of respect for his style and his game."