While Tom Brady has always maximized his supporting cast, last year showed that even he has his limits. Brady's completion percentage, touchdowns and yards per attempt were all his lowest marks since the pre-2007 era, when the Pats morphed into the up-tempo spread machine that routinely broke records.
Consequently, some Pats fans viewed receiver as a pressing need. Rookies Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce were underwhelming for much of the season, and all three were injured by year's end. Considering the injury histories of veterans Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, many were worried about the current receiving corps' sustainability.
However, by not drafting a receiver, the Patriots have placed their faith in developing the second-year trio. Of the three, Dobson appears to possess the most promise, as he was among the team's most improved players from the first quarter to the second quarter of the year.
MassLive.com's Nick Underhill reported that Dobson will miss spring OTAs as he recovers from offseason foot surgery. Given that he was supposed to miss two to three months after surgery on Mar. 9, Dobson could be ready for minicamp, which begins on June 17.
Boyce and Thompkins come with more unknown variables and, subsequently, lower expectations. The former is a speed demon who could contribute on kickoff returns and in the slot, the latter is a less athletic but crafty route-runner who was a reliable possession receiver early in the year.
Even after re-signing Julian Edelman and adding Brandon LaFell, it's clear that the Patriots need at least one of the three to make a significant sophomore jump. None figure to ascend to primary target status, but if they can add a speed and/or outside-the-numbers aspect to the Patriots' short-to-intermediate bread and butter, it will infuse the passing game with invaluable versatility.
*All stats via Pro Football Focus (subscription required).