Who's Catching Brady's Passes Now?
Those three assets contributed 224 receptions and 2,627 receiving yards to the Patriots last season.
There’s a chance that Gronkowski won’t miss too much time this year, but he’s always an injury risk regardless of how soon he returns. So apart from new acquisition Danny Amendola - who is sure to see a fair share of Tom Brady targets - who is going to be a top pass catcher for the Patriots this year?
Candidate #1 - Aaron Dobson
New England’s second rounder this year has all the tools to be a #1 Receiver in the NFL. He’s 6’3” with a quick first step and great hands. He put up solid numbers in his 4 seasons at Marshall and there’s no reason to think he won’t have every opportunity to solidify a spot on the first team in training camp. Plus, the dude can catch passes one-handed.
Candidate #2 - Donald Jones
Jones was pretty productive in his three years with the Bills, which led New England to offering him a 3-year contract this offseason. He’s got a lot of versatility, being a quick wideout that can run in the slot or down the sidelines, and we all know Belichick loves his versatile players. Last year, Jones caught 41 passes for 443 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Candidate #3 - Jake Ballard
Now here’s a name that could really start catching fire in a few weeks. With Hernandez out of the picture, the Tight End spot is wide open until Gronkowski returns and Ballard has proven he can do some damage in that spot before. Undrafted out of Ohio State, Ballard caught 38 passes for 604 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2011 with the Giants, but after an ACL injury put him on injured reserve last year, the Patriots scooped him up off waivers. At 6’6”, 285, he’s just the perfect target for a Brady touchdown pass.
Candidate #4 - Josh Boyce
The 4th round pick out of TCU has a lot of upside. He’s 5’11”, lightning quick, and just has a great motor overall. How much he’ll contribute his rookie season is up for debate and he could just become a kick return specialist this year, but he’s certainly a player you don’t want to sleep on.
Candidate #5 - Julian Edelman
His name always came up when Welker was out of the lineup for New England, but he was just never able to really step in to a key role in the Patriots offense. He’s mostly dangerous as a kick returner, but as one of the few tenured Patriots in the wide receiver department, there’s a chance he could escalate himself to a more significant role this year. All in all, you may want to keep your eyes on him, but don’t be surprised by another underwhelming output this year, as he’s a very similar player to Amendola, just not nearly as good.
Candidate #6 - Michael Jenkins
The nine-year veteran has never been anything of a stud, but then again, he’s never really played with a Tom Brady caliber Quarterback. Coming off a year where he caught 40 passes for 449 yards and 2 touchdowns, Jenkins shouldn’t be too high on your radar, but the 6’4” veteran could have an opportunity if Dobson doesn’t pan out and another tall receiver is needed to fill the void.