EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 24, 2013

Five reasons Pats will draft a receiver

On Pro Football
Hector Longo

---- — Any reputable New England Patriots fan can spout off eight legitimate reasons that Bill Belichick won’t be dipping into the wide receiver market at this weekend’s NFL Draft.

In no specific order, how about these previous picks:

Chad Jackson (2nd round), Bethel Johnson (2nd), Taylor Price (3rd), P.K. Sam (5th), Jeremy Ebert (7th), Julian Edelman (7th), Matt Slater (5th) and Brandon Tate (3rd).

The man and his personnel people have trouble assessing receiver talent coming out of college. That list above represents each of New England’s receiver selections (and the round they were picked) since 2002 when the club grabbed Deion Branch in the second round out of Louisville and Notre Dame’s David Givens in Round 7.

But during the draft, which is Thursday-Saturday this year, be ready for a change. Look for some flash early, not just fat linemen from Fresno (no offense, Logan). Belichick has to roll the dice at receiver.

Here are five reasons why.

WINTER OF DISCONTENT

I spent a few minutes looking at Wes Welker-Tom Brady highlights on YouTube, and honestly, I can’t believe he’s gone.

The Patriots broke up a modern-day “Montana-to-Rice” combination and got nothing in the process. In addition, the Pats sent Brandon Lloyd packing. For the record, those are 182 catches and 10 TDs that must be replaced.

Maybe Donald Jones and Danny Amendola can basically double their career-best numbers from last year and fill the void.

If you believe that, you are the typical “In Bill we Trust” Pats fan. I just can’t buy it.

Belichick understands the need for a No. 1 receiver, preferably a guy who can play the “X” position all by himself on the outside. That’s why the Pats made the heavy push for Emmanuel Sanders from Pittsburgh in free agency. But that move failed and the hole remains gaping.

A.J. GREEN-HOUSE EFFECT

The big, athletic, “rip the ball out of the defenders’ arms” type of receiver is taking the game by storm.

A.J. Green and Julio Jones have grown into game-changers. Add in Michael Crabtree in San Francisco. And we all saw/felt how a big, physical receiver like Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin can change a big game.

The Pats need an outside thoroughbred. With the rules as they are in the passing game, it’s time to get a pure, giant pass-catcher.

Everybody wants/needs one now. Find the next Green or Jones or Calvin Johnson.

TOM BRADY

You’ve been such a great asset, Tom, for your 36th birthday, we’re going to give you a receiving corps that harkens back to 2006 when Doug Gabriel and Jabar Gaffney et al. had your back.

Brady’s time is wearing thin. He needs weapons, dependable weapons. Remember these guys can be brittle. Amendola missed 20 games to injury the last two years while last year Jones (12 games), Rob Gronkowski (5) and Aaron Hernandez (8) missed considerable time.

To go to battle with such a limited arsenal would just be wasting time. Another season of “good not great.”

WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS

As “improved” as it was last year, bumping all the way up to 27th in the NFL rankings, there is going to come a time when the Pats defense needs the offense to deliver. A late drive, a quick strike, three points in 30 seconds, it’s going to happen.

Brady-to-Welker didn’t always deliver when defenses had 2-3 guys hanging all over Brady. Remember that Super Bowl “drop” vs. the Giants? That had as much to do with the coverage dictating Welker that route just a smidge as it did the receiver simply missing it.

You beat both those schemes with a big, nasty playmaker. Enter the next Megatron, please.

PICK FROM A LOADED FIELD

This year’s harvest should be deep and impactful, making the Pats’ chances of landing a champion even better, as long as they’ve correctly done their homework.

You could see 10 receivers in the top 50 picks, which means there is value on the board.

Can Belichick and Nick Caserio find the big guy who best fits the system?