Tom Brady led the Patriots to one of their most prolific offensive seasons in 2010, and his command was as efficient as ever. Yet, the Pats didn't always get a lot of production out of their third wide receiver, and they might try to improve that area this offseason.
This year's draft class has a deep class of receivers who should stretch through the second and third rounds, but those players are typically developmental projects. There are two superstars at the top, and Bill Belichick's familiarity with the Alabama program could lead him to get aggressive for Crimson Tide wide receiver Julio Jones.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder set career highs as a junior in 2010 with 78 receptions for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns. In three seasons, he had 179 catches, 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Jones is a prototypical No. 1 receiver with a big frame, great speed and game-breaking ability. He was one of the nation's most prized recruits coming out of high school, and he has continued that trend to this point in his career. Jones should only keep getting better, and he could eventually become one of the NFL's best wideouts.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
More than anything, the Patriots would have to trade up for Jones (more later), and that doesn't seem like a feasible option when they could address other needs at the top portion of the draft. Jones' big issue is dropping the ball, but that's a matter of concentration and should be corrected with time.
Potential Impact in 2011
It's tough to expect much out of rookie wide receivers, but the Patriots could count on Jones for 40 receptions as a rookie. It won't be easy for the third wide receiver to command the ball when Brady also has Wes Welker, Deion Branch, a couple of exciting tight ends and some running backs who can catch the ball. But as electric as Jones could be with his athleticism, he could also be a good red-zone target because of his frame.
What The Locals Are Saying
Jones earned his stripes by lining up against LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Where Can the Patriots Expect to Draft Jones?
Jones could go as high as No. 4 to the Bengals, and he could also wind up with the Browns (No. 6), Redskins (No. 10) and Rams (No. 14). If Jones gets past Washington, expect some teams to look into moving up the board to beat out the Rams for his services. If the Patriots wanted to move into the 11-13 range, it would take the 17th pick and a late second- or early third-rounder. Since the draft class doesn't have a lot of marquee power late in the second round, that wouldn't be too steep of a price if the Patriots chose to move up.
Every day through April 28, NESN.com will spotlight one player the Patriots could draft with one of their first three picks.
Friday, April 1: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
Saturday, April 2: North Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Quinn
Sunday, April 3: Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward
Tuesday, April 5: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara