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Brandon Lloyd's athleticism will provide a huge boost for the Pats
1) Wes Welker: 2011—122 catches, 1,569 yards, 9 TDs.
2) Brandon Lloyd: 2011—70 catches, 966 yards, 5 TDs.
3) Jabar Gaffney: 2011—68 catches, 947 yards, 5 TDs.
4) Deion Branch: 2011—51 catches, 702 yards, 5 TDs.
5) Julian Edelman: 2011—4 catches, 34 yards, 0 TDs.
6) Matthew Slater: 2011—1 catch, 46 yards, 0 TDs.
Arguably the position with the most competition, the battle for wide receiver spots will be one of the Patriots' most interesting subplots.
Despite ongoing contract talks, Wes Welker will be back for at least one more season, bringing along his guaranteed 100-plus catches. Welker was the best receiver in football last year not named Calvin Johnson and figures to be Brady's go-to guy again next season.
Perhaps the Patriots' biggest signing stealing Randy Moss from Oakland in '07, Brandon Lloyd brings exactly what the Patriots offense missed last season—a play-making receiver down the field.
A Josh McDaniels favorite, Lloyd already knows the offense and his penchant for the spectacular catch should make him a fan favorite. Double-digit touchdowns is not out of the question for Lloyd.
Special teams captain Matthew Slater will most likely make the team as a wide receiver, but his real contributions will come on special teams.
Behind Welker and Lloyd is a litany of pass catchers. Former star Chad Ochocinco, ex-Pat Donte Stallworth, former Colts' first-round pick Anthony Gonzalez, rookie speedster Jeremy Ebert, jack-of-all-trades Julian Edelman and Brady favorites Deion Branch and Jabar Gaffney will all be competing for three jobs.
With his special-teams prowess, Edelman figures to take one spot. As the most logical backup to Welker, Edelman is also the Patriots' primary punt returner.
Filling out the other two spots will be Brady favorites Branch and Gaffney. Despite an average year by his standards, Branch was as dependable as ever and his chemistry with Brady should ensure a spot on the roster.
Gaffney who followed McDaniels to Denver in '08, returns after being cut by the Redskins. However, the 10-year vet is coming off arguably his best year, recording career highs in yards, catches and touchdowns. Brady's go-to guy in 2006, Gaffney will most likely back up Lloyd and get snaps in three- and four-receiver formations.