The New England Patriots received some unfortunate news on Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers matched the Patriots’ $ 2.5 million offer sheet to restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders. The Patriots wanted to grab the explosive wideout from the Steelers in free agency, and were willing to give up their third-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft in order to attain him.
Alas, the Steelers felt the need to retain Sanders, for at least this year, meaning New England will not have to surrender the 91st overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
With Sanders out of the picture, the Patriots must add a wide receiver in the draft. There are experts around the league that felt one of the reasons the Patriots signed Sanders to an offer sheet was directly related to their recent struggles selecting wide receivers in the draft.
Recent draft busts Taylor Price, (round three, 2010) Chad Jackson (round one, 2006) and P.K. Sam (round five, 2004) portray the Patriots’ ineptitude in selecting quality receivers in the draft. Price, Jackson and Sam combined for a grand total of 14 catches in their brief NFL careers.
Despite struggling mightily in recent drafts, the Patriots should, indeed, select a wideout with one of their first two picks in the 2013 NFL draft. The Patriots covet a big-bodied wideout who can play on the perimeter and beat man coverage.
Justin Hunter, Keenan Allen, Robert Woods and Stedman Bailey are all draft prospects with potential to be reliable red zone targets in the Patriots offense because of their size. These wide receivers could all be available when the Patriots are on the clock with the No. 29 overall selection.
With a need at the receiver position, it is essential for the Patriots to trust their instinct and draft who they feel can best adjust into their offense. The Patriots will need production from the wideout they select in the upcoming season, so avoiding another draft bust will be critical.