Add that fact to Randy Moss recently suggesting that the Patriots "don't pay," and that 2010 is almost certainly his last season with the team, and suddenly what was once a strength for New England could quickly become a weakness.
Even after Tom Brady went down in the first game of the 2008 season, Welker and Moss still maintained great chemistry within the offense, and kept things together, both ending with their third straight season of 1,000+ receiving yards.
Flash forward to Welker's injury in Week 17 of 2009, and suddenly the Patriots are looking at entering 2010 with Randy Moss and Julian Edelman as their top two receivers, in addition to the recently signed David Patten.
Patten is simply a guy who knows the offense and hopefully can find a role, but he's really not even a lock to make the team.
Edelman, a converted quarterback, has shown great speed and quickness, and has filled in admirably in the slot when Wes Welker has been out.
In Week 17, he caught 10 passes for over 100 yards, and then followed it up with two scores in the Patriots' loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs.
Still, Edelman filling in and producing, and not having Welker for the start of a season (or an entire season), is a whole different story.
Considering all of this, there's a very good possibility that Bill Belichick and Co. will look for a wide receiver (and maybe two), who can mirror the style of play that they've grown accustomed to.
There has been talk that once Moss leaves after this season, the Patriots would just play more reserved football, run the ball, and control the clock.
That may be true, but there's still nothing wrong with obtaining explosive players on the field. With four picks in the first 53 selections, New England could easily get two elite talents at receiver, while also addressing two other needs.
Here's a look at some guys that would be a strong fit in New England, and why:
Arrelious Benn (Illinois)
If Moss is going to go, grabbing a guy who can be a consistent deep threat and make plays down the field will be a definite mission for the Patriots. The thought here as well is that, even if Moss stays, he's still 33 and not getting any younger.
I'm still not sold the Patriots use their first-rounder on a wide receiver, but if they do, Dez Bryant has a decent chance of being gone (otherwise they could grab him), and if they wait too long, Benn could be gone, as well.
The question here is, are the Patriots more worried about replacing a potentially departing Moss, or just want more slot depth behind the injured Wes Welker?
Golden Tate (Notre Dame)
Tate is another guy who has a great chance of being a first-rounder (and should be), with the only real question about him being his size.
The Patriots work wonders with anything close to talent at the receiver position, so to land a small, explosive talent like Tate would mean they could groom a guy that could be Welker 2.0, and in the best way possible.
However, Tate should be gone before the end of the first round, so it will come down to how early the Patriots pull the trigger on the position.
If these guys are gone, my guess is New England will wait on a receiver until the second round, where they have three picks to do some work with.
Jordan Shipley (Texas)
Shipley is the dark horse for New England, and because of his vastly under-rated speed, agility, and versatility, he's the "dark horse" for several teams.
He's been pigeon-holed a bit as a slot guy at the next level, but the tape doesn't lie. Shipley may be on the smaller side, but he did show at Texas (against good competition), that he can be a consistent deep threat and an elite play-maker.
However, while still possessing the talent to be a true No. 1 receiver, he's best viewed as an elite slot receiver (Welker replacement, perhaps?) because his size and skill set would make him unstoppable across the middle, and his quickness would allow him to abuse mismatches.
Shipley also adds a dimension few of the other receivers have, and that's an elite return game, along with excellent vision.
If New England waits until the second round to go after a receiver and Shipley is still waiting to hear his named called, he's their guy.
Demaryius Thomas (Georgia Tech)
Thomas is going to miss some time due to a broken foot, and this could easily have a negative impact on his draft status.
New England is smarter than to let a fluke injury affect their decision-making, and even if they spend their first second-rounder on Shipley or another receiver, there's a decent chance they bite on Thomas if he's still available.
That, or they can test their luck and see if he keeps falling into the third round.
While his foot injury is a slight concern, his size, bulk, and speed could be just too tempting to pass up.
Thomas caught just 46 balls in 2009, but turned those balls into over 1,100 receiving yards and eight scores, showing a gaudy 25.1 yards per catch.
Randy Moss replacement, anyone?
Decker is another fine talent who could slip a bit, as he's currently recovering from a Lisfranc injury, and could be dropping down draft boards.
However, in his career at Minnesota, he routinely destroyed the Big 10, displaying elite possession receiver skills, and was a fantastic red-zone threat.
Decker has fantastic size and body control, and could have one of the best sets of hands in the draft. He runs every route in the route tree almost perfectly, and while he doesn't have blazing speed, he's still got enough speed to make some plays in the open field.
He's not Randy Moss or Wes Welker, but in turn, he'd offer the Patriots their first true possession receiver in some time. He's too big to man the slot, and not fast enough to be a true deep threat. But getting first downs and scoring touchdowns? Well, he shouldn't have a problem.
This article was originally published here .
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