We continue our series of scouting reports for the Patriots 2013 draft choices with a look at wide receiver Aaron Dobson.
Alignment: Dobson was used primarily as a perimeter receiver in Marshall's offense, often aligning to the quarterback's left side.
Build/athleticism: As we saw up close and personal during interviews at rookie minicamp, Dobson is a long, big-framed wide receiver standing at 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds. Dobson has very good straight-line speed and acceleration, and is able to pick up his pace in tight spaces and break free in the open field. He has good lateral agility, but is better moving north-south. He has fluid strides down the field and has excellent body control to torque and adjust to the football when it is in the air. The Patriots have not had a receiver with his sort of size and speed combination during either of the past two seasons.
Skills/traits: Dobson is a smooth, high-cut receiver who can run an extensive route tree from the perimeter of the offensive formation. He was used in the underneath passing game on both in- and out-breaking routes and showed good discipline in his double-move routes to stretch the field vertically. He shows very good speed and an excellent catch frame, although he did have a few concentration drops during his final college season (there was some talk of Dobson not having any drops in 2012, but that was not the case). What makes Dobson intriguing is the ability to be a factor on the perimeter and after the catch. The Patriots relied on Brandon Lloyd as a perimeter target in 2012, but Lloyd's limited run-after-catch ability limited the offensive explosiveness. While Dobson is just a sufficient make-you-miss runner, he has the acceleration, straight-line speed and contact strength to explode up the field vertically. He has a tendency to be a push/pop blocker, going for forearm shivers to a defensive back rather than latching on and walling off.
Projection: On paper, it would appear that Dobson has landed in a role conducive to early playing time and production. The Patriots have long needed a perimeter target, and with Brandon Lloyd gone, the No. 2 receiver job looks to be available for the taking. If Dobson can hone what made him successful in college and master the intricacies of the Patriots' passing game, he could assume that role and become a dependable target for Brady. He has the speed to be used in bubble screens and could become a major factor in the red zone because of his size and ability to play with excellent body control with the ball in the air in man coverage. He flashed excellent catching skills on occasion in college, and despite his average-sized hands (nine inches), he has very good ability to pluck and snatch the football. The Patriots may lean on Dobson in the red zone as a fade target toward the back pylon.