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Patriots wide receiver breakdown: Who will step up in first 4 weeks without Julian Edelman, who is sleeper to make team?

Ryan Hannable
July 24, 2018 - 11:10 am

The wide receiver position got a lot more interesting on Monday with the news of Malcolm Mitchell having another knee procedure and having the potential of not playing at all during the 2018 season.

Add in the fact Julian Edelman is suspended the first four games, there's a big question of who Tom Brady will be able to trust the first four weeks. Overall, the wide receiver position is fairly deep, but with players who have a lot of question marks and haven't proved anything in New England.

Here's a complete breakdown of the position with thoughts on each player.

Julian Edelman

Edelman is obviously the No. 1 guy, but he's suspended the first four weeks and also returning from a torn ACL. By missing the first month he will get some extra time to recover, but it's no sure thing once he returns he will be the same player he was before the injury. For some players it takes almost two years to get fully back to where they were, so it's hard to 100 percent count on Edelman being the player he was back in 2016. Regardless, once he returns he will instantly become the vocal point of the offense and Brady's top target.

Chris Hogan

Hogan battled a shoulder injury last year and wasn't the same player after returning, except for in the Super Bowl. Now entering his third year with the team, he has developed solid chemistry with Brady and will need to be the top wide out the first four weeks with Edelman not around. He won't be asked to run the same type of routes as the shifty slot receiver, but on crucial third downs, he will see a lot more targets than in the past simply because there aren't many guys Brady knows he can count on.

Malcolm Mitchell

It appears his days as a Patriot are over. The Georgia product continues to have knee issues and reportedly had another procedure on Monday. There was even a report saying the Patriots are shopping him, which is an indication he's no longer in their plans. It's a shame because he showed great promise his rookie year being one of the few rookies ever to come in and immediately connect with Brady.

Kenny Britt

Britt was pretty impressive during the spring until he suffered a hamstring injury, which will have him on PUP to open training camp. But, he is expected to be back on the field soon. Added late last year, he didn't really get the chance to work all that much with Brady. A full offseason to learn the playbook likely served him well and he will be competing with players like Phillip Dorsett, Jordan Matthews and Cordarrelle Patterson for the final roster spots at the position and also playing time. Going into camp, he's in a good position to make the team.

Phillip Dorsett

Dorsett has a big advantage over some of the other receivers given he has experience working with Brady from last season. Some forget some of the big catches he had over the course of the year. Without Brandin Cooks, the former Colts receiver could have more of a role in the deep passing game. He's a dark horse to have a breakout season if he's given the opportunity to play.

Jordan Matthews

Matthews is our sleeper to have the biggest impact, especially with Edelman out. The veteran receiver knows what it takes to be a successful receiver, so we don't think developing chemistry with Brady will be an issue. On his other teams he's been primarily a No. 2 receiver, which won't be the case in New England. A lesser role could serve him well as he won't have too much on his plate. Keep an eye on him to have perhaps the best year of his career.

Cordarrelle Patterson

Patterson likely won't have much of an impact as a receiver, but could be used in a variety of ways just to get the ball in his hands so he can make plays. It was apparent during the spring he doesn't have the best hands in the world, but did show he will be able to make a lot of plays with his feet. His primary role with the team will be in the return game.

Cody Hollister

Hollister will open the year on the active/non-football injury list and after spending all of 2017 on the practice squad, he has a long road ahead of him to stick around this year.

Braxton Berrios

The rookie out of Miami has potential. If Berrios can make a good first impression during training camp and in the preseason games he could be a sleeper to make the 53-man roster. Edelman's suspension could help as another receiver can be added to the roster since he doesn't count towards the opening 53. Berrios does a lot of things similar to Edelman and could potentially be given the opportunity if he has a good next couple of weeks.

Riley McCarron

McCarron is similar to Berrios, but we see him having a better chance of making it on to the practice squad. If Berrios were to be cut, the team would risk him being claimed by another team, similar to Austin Carr last summer.

Devin Lucien

The Patriots brought back their 2017 seventh-round pick on Monday, but it's likely more of just having another body for training camp to prevent what happened last summer when top receivers were worn down after a few weeks.

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