The Patriots’ loss of Wes Welker was the most controversial move of the offseason, but Brandon Lloyd‘s departure also left a major hole in the NFL’s most potent passing attack.
So, with Tom Brady now looking to Danny Amendola and a few uncertainties on the outside, Bill Belichick knows he needs to find at least one more primary target heading into next season, even if it means drafting a wide receiver on Day 1 or Day 2.
This year’s draft class is full of impact receivers with high upside, but Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton is one of the few who seem NFL ready.
Wheaton made an impact on the Beavers’ offense in each of his four college seasons and really established himself as a productive and reliable receiver during his time in Corvallis, Ore. He was the Beavers’ primary offensive weapon as both a junior and season, catching 164 balls and 12 touchdowns over the two-season span. Now, he’s looking to continue that high level of production at the next level.
Beyond his pure production, Wheaton also has the measurables that the Patriots covet. His height (5-foot-11) isn’t ideal, but he showed off the straight line speed (4.45-second 40-yard dash), quickness (6.80-second three-cone time) and leaping ability (37-inch vertical) at the NFL combine.
The Patriots do love premier physical prospects on the outside and would only be even more enticed by Whaton’s toughness, work ethic and overall character as an individual (Watch this video for more).
The Patriots have missed on so many wide receiver prospects in the past, but Wheaton seems like just the prospect to break the streak.
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. Wheaton is the 22nd player in that series.
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 189 pounds
40 Time: 4.45 seconds
Vertical Jump: 37 inches
Wheaton didn’t see the field much as a freshman, rushing 11 times for 79 yards and catching eight passes for 89 yards in 2009. He established himself as a viable threat during his sophomore season, catching 55 passes and four touchdowns while gaining 220 yards on the ground. He earned All-Pac 12 honors in both 2011 and 2012, leading the team with 73 grabs for 986 yards as a junior and following that up with 91 catches, 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns this past season. He also set the Oregon State record with 227 career receptions.
He developed into a very productive and knowledgeable receiver during his four years at Oregon State, growing and maturing with each passing season. His experience in a pro system and impressive production should make him more than capable of producing immediately with his new team.
Likelihood He’s Around at No. 29:
He will be. Wheaton has been rising up draft boards consistently over the past few weeks and he is highly regarded, but his lack of elite size and reliability questions do raise some concerns for teams in the first round. I wouldn’t rule out the Patriots taking a chance on him at No. 29, but Wheaton does seem to be more of a mid-to-late second-round pick.
Game Tape breakdown:
Strengths: Wheaton explodes off the line and uses his speed to get an edge on defenders out in space. He is very good at locating the ball on deep routes and has the flexibility to make adjustments to haul in catches. He is unafraid of contact and more than willing to lower his shoulder to gain an extra few yards. He’s also a very versatile player, given his speed, which makes him an option on special teams and out of the backfield.
Weaknesses: He does tend to get overwhelmed by more physical corners at the line of scrimmage. He loses focus at times on passes and will turn his attention up the field before securing the catch. While he boasts elusive speed, he doesn’t have great vision in the open field and doesn’t make defenders miss consistently. He also isn’t a very physical or high-effort blocker.
Scout Wheaton for yourself below.
Next Up: Johnthan Banks, CB, Texas A&M
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 | Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M | Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU | Barrett Jones, C, Alabama | DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson | Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State | Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech | Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama | Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia | Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers http://wp.me/p2AlCJ-HhM
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Photo via Facebook/Oregon State Football