FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots are many things, but afraid is not one of them.
The unwavering confidence and willingness to take risks are core parts of Bill Belichick‘s aura. So, why expect anything different when it comes to the team’s future on offense?
After bypassing a hoard of wide receivers both at the end of the first round and with their first pick of the second round, the Patriots finally gave into their glaring need on the outside.
Marshall wideout Aaron Dobson was the pick. Measuring in at 6-foot-3 with a 4.37-second 40 time and some highlight reel catches — like this one — you might instantly reminisce about the last former Thundering Herd receiver to don a Patriots uni. But don’t let the compelling comparisons get the best of you. Dobson is not Randy Moss, nor does he want to be.
“Moss is a great player,” Dobson said after getting drafted on Friday night. “He definitely did his thing in the NFL. He came in and went straight to work. I’m going to try to come in and make my own name. Really just do what I can do to help my team win and do what I can do to make myself better and be great.”
The physical similarities are there, for the most part, and his talent is tantalizing. So, it’s no wonder the Patriots were interested. But Dobson is still a project that will require time and patience, and Tom Brady isn’t exactly oozing with either.
Belichick doesn’t seem concerned by the rawness of Dobson’s talent, though. Instead, he actually sounded enthused by the receiver’s abilities.
“He’s big, he’s fast, he’s got good hands, he’s a strong player; smart, very smart,” Belichick said on Friday night. “He has some position flexibility and versatility. Catches the ball very well.”
That mention of his hands shouldn’t go overlooked, either. Dobson has the most reliable hands of any receiver in this year’s draft, and that’s not just hyperbole.
In 2012, Dobson was targeted a total of 92 times and didn’t drop a single catchable pass — that’s right, zero. The only other receiver to achieve the feat was South Carolina’s Ace Sanders, who did it on 73 targets.
Need confirmation? Check out this chart drawn up by Stats LLC, which includes most of this draft’s top receivers.
Now, that doesn’t mean Dobson had 92 catches on the season — in fact, he had 57 receptions in all — but he never let one slip through his fingers, which is the true sign of a natural hands catcher. If anything, that must be reassuring for Brady. He didn’t exactly have that sort of fortune with previous draft busts at the position like Chad Jackson, Taylor Price or Brandon Tate.
The combination of Dobson’s sure hands and obvious high football IQ may be a sign that the Patriots have finally learned their lesson about drafting receivers. Even Belichick couldn’t deny he was different than some of their past picks at the position.
“I’d say he’s certainly in the upper group of that,” Belichick admitted.
Maybe something has finally clicked. Maybe this is the right guy. The true test will come when he actually makes his way onto the football field. But, until then, at least it seems they finally got it right.
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Photo via College Press Box