The addition of Danny Amendola helps recoup some that production, but the Patriots will still need to do some work in the draft to make up for the loss.
Amendola has a similar skill set to Welker, which made him such an intriguing add at the start of free agency, but his versatility on the outside means the Patriots could use another slot option. If that’s so, Texas A&M’s Ryan Swope is an interesting player.
Swope, who was often compared to Welker during his college career, is actually a much bigger and faster receiver than the former Patriots star. His production over the past three seasons with the Aggies also makes him stand out, as he became Texas A&M’s all-time receptions leader after his third 70-plus catch season in 2012.
It is unlikely that Swope would ever have five 100-catch seasons during his entire NFL career, never mind in a six-year span, but Swope does possess the same sort of toughness and durability that made Welker such a quality asset during the past half decade.
He isn’t a Welker clone by any standard, but Swope definitely has the potential to step in and help replace the All-Pro receiver.
Editor’s Note: NESN.com will evaluate and analyze one potential Patriots draft prospect every day from March 27 up until the start of the NFL Draft on April 25. Swope is the 12th player in that series.
Height/Weight: 6-foot, 205 pounds
40 Time: 4.34 seconds
Vertical Jump: 37 inches
Swope was productive throughout his entire career with the Aggies, setting a school record with 252 receptions over the course of his four seasons. He also set Texas A&M records as a junior with 89 catches and 1,207 yards in 2011. His receptions totals are impressive, but Swope also was a great red zone target during his career in College Station, hauling in 24 scores and 19 over the past two seasons.
Swope appreciates the comparisons to Welker, but knows that he brings different skills than the now jettisoned Patriots great. The 22-year-old is three inches taller than the 5-foot-9 Welker and he runs a heckuva lot faster, too. His versatility to play both in the slot and on the outside also adds intrigue.
Likelihood He’s Around at No. 29:
Swope is not a first-round prospect, although his workout at the combine did boost his draft stock significantly. He will be there at the end of the first round and maybe even at No. 59 in the second round, if no one reaches too high for him.
Game Tape breakdown:
Strengths: Swope can play as both a possession receiver in the slot and a speedster on the outside. He’s a very reliable receiver and has a wide catch radius that allows him to make plays others wouldn’t. He’s also a great route runner and very shifty, which often creates space and passing lanes. He exerts a lot of effort as a blocker and sticks with his man until the whistle. He plays with a lot of passion and energy, which his teammates feed off of.
Weaknesses: He doesn’t possess elite athleticism and fails to elude speedy defenders at times. He struggles to break press coverage at the line of scrimmage due to a lack of strength. He also lets his passion for the game get the best of him on occasion.
Scout Swope for yourself below.
Monday: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
Other potential prospects: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State | Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee | Justin Pugh, OG, Syracuse | Alex Okafor, DE, Texas | Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor | Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina | Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia | David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State | Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee | Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut | Margus Hunt, DT, SMU
Photo via Facebook/ Ryan Swope