The New England Patriots will be holding their mandatory minicamp from June 5th to June 7th, and all eyes are focused on whether or not Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski show up after skipping the voluntary parts of the offseason program. With that in the background, I will be continuing my positional breakdown of the 2018 Patriots roster with a look at the Patriots’ deep wide receiver corps.
While the Patriots’ receiving corps lacks elite top-end talent after the departure of Brandin Cooks, the group is arguably the deepest in the NFL right now. Julian Edelman is one of the best slot receivers in the league and will give Brady a dependable option underneath for quick passes and whenever the pocket starts collapsing. It remains to be seen how he will fare after suffering an ACL tear during last year’s preseason, but Jordy Nelson and Dion Lewis have shown that a player can return to form post-injury. Chris Hogan is a solid wide receiver 2/3 and red zone target. He should have a productive year after having missed about half of the 2017 campaign with a shoulder injury.
Malcolm Mitchell is an interesting one; he flashed plenty of potential in his rookie campaign in 2016, but a knee injury has sidelined him since the beginning of last year. There are concerns that he is suffering from lingering effects of an ACL tear he sustained in college, so it appears that the Patriots are being cautious with his rehab process in the hopes that it does not get worse. However, it remains to be seen if he even steps on the field this year. I put an asterisk next to his name because I believe he will make the roster if healthy, but it is possible that he starts the year on the PUP list, thus potentially freeing up a roster spot for someone else. Cordarrelle Patterson will make the team as a gunner and kick returner while also being used in certain packages for gadget plays and go routes. As always, special teams captain Matthew Slater will continue to provide solid special teams play and leadership.
Kenny Britt is coming off a disappointing 2017 campaign, but managed to tally over 1,000 yards on a bad Los Angeles Rams team in 2016. He provides a unique body type and skill set to the Patriots’ receiving corps and likely has an edge on Dorsett and Matthews just for that reason. Despite appearing in 15 games for the Patriots last season, Phillip Dorsett tallied only 12 receptions for 194 yards as he never seemed to adjust to the Patriots’ scheme over the course of the season. I believe that an offseason and training camp in the program will do him some good, but word on street is that he has dropped quite a few passes in the two OTA practices available to the media. There is plenty of time for him to earn himself a roster spot during training camp, but it does look like he is on the outside looking in as of right now.
I believe that Jordan Matthews could be the steal of the offseason — he tallied over 800 yards in each of his first three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before having his 2017 season cut short due to injury. He’s young (he’ll turn just 26 in July despite this being his fifth season in the NFL) and is on a very team-friendly contract (1 year/$1 million with another $700,000 in incentives). If he can properly acclimate to the New England program, I have a feeling that Matthews could be in for a very good year with the Patriots. It is worth noting that he has been practicing as a gunner on special teams despite having rarely played special teams before in his NFL career, likely as a way to make himself more valuable to the team and thus help earn himself a roster spot. Sixth-round draft pick Braxton Berrios has an uphill battle to make the roster, but could give himself an inside track if he performs well as a punt returner during training camp.
Practice squad players Cody Hollister and Riley McCarron have some potential but are very unlikely to make the active roster considering the competition they face. It is possible that the Patriots re-sign them to the practice squad if another team does not pick them up.
On the whole, the Patriots have ten players (excluding Slater, as he’s more of a special teamer) battling for what may be only five or six roster spots, which could leave Britt, Dorsett, Matthews, Berrios, Hollister, and McCarron fighting for just one or two spots. As I usually say this time of year: the Patriots have about 60-65 NFL-caliber players on the roster, but even after injuries, can only keep about 58. No matter how the final roster shakes out, I have no doubt that each one of these eleven players will stick around with an NFL team in some capacity, whether it be on a practice squad or an active roster.
Roster (6): Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Cordarelle Patterson, Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, Matthew Slater
Cut (2): Phillip Dorsett, Riley McCarron
Practice Squad (2): Braxton Berrios (if he clears waivers, which I’m guessing he won’t), Cody Hollister
PUP (1): Malcolm Mitchell
Author’s Note: Stats via Pro-Football-Reference.com; Contract Data via Spotrac.com