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There is a belief that the Patriots are going to go with a defense-heavy draft this offseason considering the number of issues on that side of the ball. But another need position that might surprise people clearly is wide receiver.
With Wes Welker coming off ACL surgery, the start of his season is in doubt. Randy Moss stands as the only other impact wideout on the roster, and his future with the team is in question past this season, especially after his comments about the Patriots not being a team that pays up to his perceived standard.
After that are a lot of questions. Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was predictably vague about the position and the team's plans there, but he did shed a little light on how the team currently stands.
"You look at Randy, I mean, you look at the time he's been here, he's one of the most productive receivers in the league the past three years," Caserio told a small contingent of media at the NFL Scouting Combine. "He's a great player, he's certainly been an asset to this offense. Wes, his body of work speaks for itself. I think (Julian) Edelman was a pleasant surprise for us last year."
A lot will be expected of Edelman after he did a nice job making the transition from college quarterback to receiver and considering he played well late last season, especially after Welker went down.
"That's a tribute to him and the work that (WR coach Chad O'Shea) and (QB coach Bill O'Brien) did with Julian," Caserio said. "Here's a guy who never played the position before. He got up to speed pretty quickly. When he was out on the field, he had 43 receptions (including playoffs) and a significant amount of production. We feel good about Julian and hopefully he'll improve. He's got a lot to learn."
And that's the point. As nice as he was last season, Edelman can't replace Welker equally right away, and it's becoming clear the team needs someone else to step up. The lack of a consistent third option handcuffed the offense most of the season. There are few in-house candidates, although Brandon Tate is a possibility.
"Brandon is kind of the unknown right now," Caserio said. "We're excited about him. He's going through the offseason process right now, trying to get himself healthy."
When asked if Tate might be ready for the start of passing camps or minicamps, Caserio said he wasn't sure.
"I really don't know," he said. "It"s a matter of how well his rehab goes."
Don't be shocked if the Patriots use one of their high picks — they currently hold four of the top 53 — on a wideout to help out.
For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.