After the departure of Randy Moss, the Patriots offensive numbers actually increased. However, even with a blend of Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Brandon Tate/Julian Edelman, it was clear the receiving corps was missing a true No. 1 receiver.
While not everyone views this as a major need, the playoff game against the Jets proved there is a way to stop this offense. With a deep receiver class in this year’s draft, I would not be opposed to the Pats taking a big, speedy receiver in the draft’s first three rounds.
Georgia’s A.J. Green is a lock to be a top-8 pick, but here are some other options in the first two rounds assuming the Pats don’t trade up for Green.
1. Julio Jones, Alabama: If Green is 1A, then Jones may just be 1B. The former Crimson Tide star brings size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and physicality to the field. While he doesn’t have the most reliable hands or route-running skills compared to Green, he tested better in almost every drill at the combine. He draws comparisons to T.O. for his combination of size, speed and after-the-catch ability. Jones is a top-15 pick, so the Pats would have to trade up from 17 to get him.
2. Leonard Hankerson, Miami: For the last 20 years “The U” has produced top-notch NFL receivers like Michael Irvin, Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson. Hankerson has a chance to be the next Hurricane to make the transition to the pros. He has good size at 6-foot-2, 209 pounds with good speed (4.40). He put together a great senior campaign, catching 72 passes for 1,156 yards and 13 touchdowns. Hankerson could be a target with the No. 33 pick.
3. Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh: The draft’s biggest receiver at 6-foot-5, 228 pounds, Baldwin is a great athlete. He ran a 4.49 forty and recorded a 42-inch vertical jump. A downfield threat at Pittsburgh, he averaged 18.2 yards per catch during his three-year career. While he has some character concerns, he would be an ideal replacement for Moss from a physical standpoint. He is a borderline first-round pick, but could be chosen at 33.
4. Torrey Smith, Maryland: It has long been known that players from the University of Maryland are physical freaks. Smith is no different. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Smith ran an impressive 4.41 forty at the combine and had a vertical jump of 41 inches. He showed consistent improvement every year, catching 67 passes for 1,055 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. What I don’t like about Smith is his limited route running as he is mostly used for fly patterns. However, what he does, he does well. I would take a look at him in the second round.
5. Randall Cobb, Kentucky: Bill Belichick loves versatility, and Cobb fits the bill. A true all-purpose threat, Cobb caught 144 passes and carried the ball 228 times during his three-year career. He has average size at 5-foot-11, 191 pounds and ran a 4.46 forty at the combine. Cobb would not be a No. 1 receiver, but would be another dangerous weapon in a dynamic offense and could be a return man, too. Another good value in the second round range.