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Patriots receivers: Who's in and who's out?

4/4/2012

The New England Patriots will not have a shortage of wide receivers this season. In fact, the reigning AFC champs have overstocked the position so much that interesting cuts need to be made this summer.

Following a series of free-agent signings this offseason, here is a look at New England's wide receivers:

That is 10 receivers and not nearly enough roster spots to accommodate everyone. So who's in and who's out?

Training camp will decide a lot on the field. But for the sake of projection, let's take an early look at the upcoming roster battles.

I'm projecting New England carries six healthy receivers and probably four or five on game day, considering its frequent use of multiple tight-end sets. Welker and Lloyd are the only 100-percent locks out of the 10 receivers. That leaves four spots for eight players.

I think you can take Underwood and Davis out of the running. Underwood showed promise and even earned some playing time last season. But stuck among a group full of veterans, Underwood's best chance is to put some good plays on tape in the preseason and latch on with another team.

Slater is a Pro Bowler on special teams, and Edelman is extremely versatile. Patriots coach Bill Belichick values both qualities and probably doesn't want to give that up. Consider both receivers in.

By my projection, that leaves Branch, Ochocinco, Stallworth and Gonzalez battling for two roster spots. I think Branch is in for one more year due to his knowledge and leadership. The remaining trio is virtually a toss-up, perhaps with Ochocinco entering with a slight edge due to a one-year head start in New England.

Here is the AFC East blog's final prediction: Welker, Lloyd, Branch, Edelman, Slater and the Ochocinco-Stallworth-Gonzalez winner, which will be determined in training camp.

Agree or disagree? Predict who's in and who's out in New England in the comment section below.