Aaron Dobson has an added amount of pressure on his shoulders since being drafted 59th overall by the New England Patriots. The departures of Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, along with the injury woes of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, have caused a potential rift in the normally surefire New England Patriots offense.
While Tom Brady is still Tom Brady, it's up in the air whether Danny Amendola—given his history of injuries—is a permanent solution to the receiving corps or a band-aid for a bullet wound.
Add that to the fact that the Patriots signed a group of less than stellar receivers and suddenly Dobson is looking at a role that could either make or break his career: being a primary receiver for arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of the game.
It's a slight step up from Rakeem Cato, his quarterback the past two seasons at Marshall, who connected with Dobson for 679 yards and three touchdowns on 57 receptions last season. To go along with everything else, Dobson—6'3", 204 pounds—will likely have more opportunities to go over the top with Tom Brady, who stands four inches taller than Cato at 6'4".
The addition of Dobson comes with a couple red flags. He obviously didn't face the stiffest competition while at Marshall, nor are his stats as overwhelming as some of the other receivers that went in the early rounds. In the 10 games he played in his senior season, he tallied over 100 receiving yards just once.
Still, these things don't change the fact that he's the second-best receiver on the roster at this point. It's not likely that Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones or fellow draftee Josh Boyce will beat him out for a position on the outside.
Boyce should be targeted plenty, especially if the Patriots rest Gronkowski for the first few games, and if New England can establish the run as well as it did last season, he'll be a strong option down the field on play action.
Tom Brady finished fourth in the league in passing yards (4,827) and touchdowns (34) in 2012 despite the fact that the Patriots finished sixth in rushing attempts (290) as well. He also passed the ball more last season (637 attempts) than any other since joining the Patriots in 2000.
Much of this has to do with the fact that his defense was among the best in the league at forcing turnovers: It tied for fifth with 20 interceptions and finished first in the league with 21 recovered fumbles.
Pretty much all of those guys will be back next season, giving Brady and Dobson all the more opportunities to connect.
Considering Brandon Lloyd was able to total 911 receiving yards last season, I expect Dobson to top 1,000 despite his rookie status. He's far more physically gifted than the former Patriot and has hands that would make even AJ Green proud.
Projected Stat Line - 140 targets, 93 receptions, 1,115 yards, 8 TDs.