Breaking down the WR competition

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The competition remains thick amongst the Patriots' receiving corps, as veterans and younger players alike are vying for spots on the final 53-man roster. Here's a quick-hit version of how we see each receiver currently.

Brandon Lloyd: The veteran free-agent pick-up has been exactly as he was billed to be as a dynamic perimeter receiver. He's caught almost everything thrown his way, and could be a massive part of the Patriots passing game in 2012.

Wes Welker: New year, same old Wes Welker, making life miserable for defensive backs in the slot. Welker has been razor sharp in his routes, and has shown an ability to stretch the field as well.

Jabar Gaffney: Gaffney was presumed by many to be in-line for the third receiving spot, although he's had sort of an up-and-down camp. He hasn't seen as many reps as we would expect, and also hasn't been quite as much of a playmaker either. His value rests in his dependability. An injury to his right quad on Wednesday has his immediate available unclear.

Deion Branch: Branch has been held out of team drills on a number of occasions, which could be an indication that he is dealing with an injury issue, or perhaps the team is budgeting rest for the 33-year old. Nonetheless, he's been about what we expect him to be -- always in the right spot, reliable to make catches, smart in his routes, but not a dynamic athlete.

Donte' Stallworth: Stallworth looks like the Stallworth of old in terms of his speed, which could be a factor in both the passing and return game. His routes have been sharp and Belichick has praised Stallworth openly on a couple of occasions. His biggest issue so far? Drops.

Julian Edelman: Edelman, like Welker, has been a difficult cover from the slot. He's also been a menace to bring down in open space, and is the unofficial king of a tackling drill the team often holds during training camp in which a defender tries to take down a ballcarrier in a contained space; Edelman has shook defenders repeatedly. Like Stallworth, drops have been an issue.

Matthew Slater: The special teams stud has improved as a receiver, and could see an increased offensive role in 2012. He has very good straight line speed and is improving in his ball skills. His best value will always be as a core special teamer.

Jeremy Ebert: After starting training camp on the PUP, the rookie has shown some ability in his return to the field. He's crisp in his route-running, can handle punt returns, and has shown a good set of hands. Where he fits into this roster is difficult to gauge with so many veterans in front of him, but he could be a candidate to land on the practice squad.

Jesse Holley: Like Slater, Holley is a special teams contributor more than he is a receiver. He's made a handful of plays in the passing game mixed in with a handful of drops, and will likely need to show up on special teams in the upcoming preseason games to stick around.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.

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