In my first installment of the “2010 Infusion of Youth” series I discussed the Patriots’ desperate need for an outside (rush) linebacker. In my esteemed opinion that is by far their most desperate need. The Pats’ lack of a consistent pass rush exposed a young secondary and made the defense vulnerable to many big plays. Just because an outside linebacker is their biggest need, we all know that with Belichick at the helm that might not be the direction in which they go.
Other needs that the Patriots have are at wide receiver, inside linebacker, offensive line, defensive line, tight end, and quarterback. Now, my proclamation of some of these team needs may lead you to believe that I have lost my mind, but hear me out. I don’t know if anyone can argue that the Patriots do not have a serious need for talent at wide receiver. Granted they still have Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but Moss has struggled with injuries over the past 2 seasons (mind you with a bad back and shoulder in the 2009 season, Moss still managed to put up nearly 1,300 yards and 13 scores…and people say he’s washed up?) and Welker may miss the entire 2010 season because of a torn ACL (and even if he does return, injuries to the ACL usually take two years for a player to return to their initial form). Besides those two, the Patriots have yet to establish a viable option at the third wide receiver spot since Dante Stallworth left after the 2007 season. Since the end of the 2009 season everyone has been jumping on the Julian Edelman bandwagon. Sorry ladies and gentlemen, but I am not hopping on for a ride, nor will I ever be. I understand he performed relatively well in Welker’s slot position while Wes was hurt, but that’s all that Edelman is, an injury substitution that knows the playbook and can catch the ball when he is open. If I was a defensive coordinator and Edelman was playing in place of Welker, I would let Edelman catch the ball every single time. He is no threat to break a play deep. He is still learning to play the position, which means his ability to block in open space and get off of pres coverage is limited. The kid just isn’t good enough to play every down. Sam Aiken is still a member of the team and he filled that third wide receiver spot for the majority of last season, but quite frankly, Aiken is no more than a special teams player. Matthew Slater has hands like feet and will never see consistent time at wide receiver. Brandon Tate probable has the most promise out of the group, but his inability to stay healthy has severely hindered his development to this point.
In this installment, I will highlight possible wide receivers that the Patriots could select within the first two rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft. In my next and final installment in the “2010 Infusion of Youth” series I will highlight any remaining players that the Patriots may consider. Here are some possible wideout candidates:
Arrelious Benn, WR Illinois
Two years ago, Arrelious Benn was being touted as one of, if not the best receiver in college football. At nearly 6’2” and 220 lbs, Benn has the physical size accompanied by strength (20 reps of 225lbs at the combine) to be an elite wide receiver in the NFL. Questions surrounding Benn revolved around his desire and his speed. Arrelious silenced the questions about his speed at his pro day when he posted a very impressive 4.36 40 yard dash. Before Benn’s pro day, he undoubtedly would have been around at pick 22, but now that his 40 yard dash time has improved, it might be a stretch if he is still available.
Golden Tate, WR Notre Dame
A lot of people are not as high on Golden Tate as I am. When I watch him play I for some reason cannot get Anquan Boldin out of my head. He is not as big or as strong as Boldin, and may not even be as talented, but he can certainly play football. Sometimes during NFL draft time, these so called “analysts” get so caught up in workout numbers that guys like Vernon Gholston and Darrius Heyward-Bey get drafted in the top 10, while other players that were exceptionally productive in college (but didn’t post the workout numbers) get pushed out of the first round, like LeSean McCoy and Shonn Greene. There were serious questions about Tate’s speed, and at 5’10” 199 lbs there wasn’t much wiggle room for him to not post a good 40. But, he ended up posting a 4.42 at the combine and accompanied that with 17 reps at 225, which in my opinion supplants Tate solidly at the end of the first round.
Damian Williams, WR USC
There are very few things that scare me more in this world than the thought of the Patriots drafting a wide receiver out of USC. Williams’ stock has dropped recently because of a mediocre combine performance, accompanied with the lack of NFL production by USC wide receivers. I think that if desired, the Pats could certainly pick up Williams with one of their second round picks, probably even the second of their three picks (47th overall) in the second round.