- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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With just 10 days until the start of the 2013 NFL draft, one of the popular topics for discussion relating to the Patriots will be the wide receiver position, arguably the team's greatest need at this time.
Greg Cosell, the executive produce of NFL Matchup and contributor to Yahoo! Sports Shutdown Corner, has a unique read that highlights the evolving wide receiver position and the difficult task of ranking the receivers in this year's draft class. Among the primary points of his article are the increasing value of a receiver who can play from any alignment (he uses the term "Joker" to describe such a wideout), not just as a perimeter or slot receiver, while also uncovering the common thread between many of his top-rated receivers in this class: size.
As it relates to versatility to play anywhere in the formation, Cosell pegs Cal's Keenan Allen as a top prospect in that regard. At 6-foot-2 and 206 pounds, Allen's build aligns with a traditional split-end or "X" receiver, but he was used extensively (and effectively) out of the slot while in college. Cosell believes that offenses will move towards systems in which the receiving corps is composed of players who can align interchangeably.
It's an interesting (and timely) observation to make, especially when thought of in the context of the Patriots' recent attempt to sign Emmanuel Sanders away from the Steelers. One of the points raised relating to Sanders was that he didn't fit the conventional mold of an "X receiver because of his 5-foot-11 frame, but that's the hole the Patriots continue to look to fill in Brandon Lloyd's absence. Given the multiplicity of their offense, the Patriots have often bucked traditional personnel groupings, and they presumably had many ways in mind to take advantage of Sanders' skill set.
Cosell goes on to breakdown some of his top receivers from the draft, highlighting such players as DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson, Chris Harper of Kansas State and Da'rick Rogers of Tennessee Tech. While he posits that none projects as a number one receiver based on physical traits alone, he highlights their unique value and ability to make use of their size, drawing a comparison to Anquan Boldin.
Whether the Patriots view any receiver as a fit at pick 29 is unknown at this point, but the attempt to land Sanders is a strong suggestion that the team is hopeful to upgrade the position, most likely through the draft.
With that in mind, to read Cosell's piece, CLICK HERE.