You can pencil in Brandon Lloyd, who is the clear-cut best outside-the-numbers receiver on the roster, and Jabar Gaffney, an all-time favorite of Tom Brady, as well.
Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman won't see much time in the offense, but they project to the make the roster based on their special teams contributions.
With Anthony Gonzalez's injury history, Chad Ochocinco's complete lack of production last season and the unlikelihood that seventh-round draft pick Jeremy Ebert, practice squad-er Britt Davis or undrafted free-agent signing Matt Roark will make the 53-man roster, the competition for the next wide receiver spot can be narrowed down to Deion Branch and Donte' Stallworth.
Who will be more valuable to the offense?
Let's take a closer look with a head-to-head comparison of the two.
Branch has only played in all 16 regular-season games once in his 10-season career (in 2005).
With that said, Stallworth hasn't had much luck either. Appearing in only 30 games over his last three seasons in the league, Stallworth has been a prime victim of the injury bug.
Branch's durability is certainly questionable, and turning 33 this July doesn't help, but Branch is the safer bet in this case.
Anyone with eyeballs knows that Stallworth (6'0'') is taller than Branch (5'9''), but what many probably don't realize is how large Stallworth is. At 220 lbs (compared to Branch at 195 lbs), Stallworth has exemplary size and has the physical ability to break press coverages at the line of scrimmage—something Branch has struggled with at times.
Branch has never been a burner, even in his prime. His success comes with his precise route-running, thorough understanding of the offense and seemingly telepathic connection with Tom Brady.
Despite being 31 years old, Stallworth still has blazing speed, and that's something this offense has lacked at wide receiver for a couple seasons now.
Even with Branch having a bit of a down season in 2011 (51 receptions for 702 yards and five touchdowns), Branch still takes the crown on this one.
Stallworth hasn't had over 25 catches in a season since the last time he wore a Patriots jersey in 2007, and even then he had only 48 receptions for 697 yards. Though some of his lack of production can be tied to his injury-shortened seasons, it's still not even close.
Who Makes the Cut?
On one hand there is Branch, an accomplished route-runner and pioneer of the Patriots' offensive system who shares a unique connection with Tom Brady on and off the field.
And on the other hand you have Stallworth, a burner whose speed and size could help add a dynamic layer to the offense and who would also be a perfect candidate to back up Brandon Lloyd.
Both players have unique strengths that are valuable to the organization. But what does Bill Belichick value more? Speed and size, or dependability?
If it came down to Branch or Stallworth, whom would you pick?
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