To kick off this season preview series, I reviewed the running back situation for the Patriots in 2016. This edition will move on to wide receiver.

It’s a position that is heavily loaded for New England, more so than in past seasons. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick did not hold back when acquiring depth at the position. Last year, the receiver group failed to step up after the starters were injured.

Bye, Bye LaFell

Brandon LaFell is the most prominent departure from the Patriots roster which isn’t saying much. LaFell failed to deliver anything close to the production he created in 2014. Most Patriots fans nicknamed him LaDrop by the end of 2015. And we’ll never have to watch him attempt a wide receiver screen in a Pats uniform again.

Welcome Chris Hogan

The most prominent addition to the core of wide receivers is Chris Hogan. The 27-year-old former lacrosse player spent four seasons with the Buffalo Bills. He has totaled 87 receptions gaining a total of 959 yards. The numbers aren’t prolific but the Patriots just need a guy who will consistently catch the football.

Health Concerns: Edelman & Amendola

The other majority of news entering camp circulates around the health of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Edelman spent his Wednesday evening hitting homers over the left field wall at Fenway before Red Sox batting practice. The star slot receiver hit the ball over the monster three times; once over the seats completely. Needless to say it appears his foot’s health is progressing along as scheduled. He had two surgeries due to a Jones fracture in his left foot this past year. According to reports he will be available at the start of camp. Edelman is the most important wide receiver on the roster.

Danny Amendola’s case looks more complicated than Edelman’s. He had surgery on both his knee and ankle in the offseason. Amendola deserves credit for fighting through multiple injuries during last season. Both surgeries were described as minor. “I feel really good,” Amendola said recently. “I had a couple minor procedures done after the season. Everybody knows how long the season can be. I wanted to go into next season feeling as fresh and ready as I can.”

Both Edelman and Amendola might start camp out as limited in practice before going full tilt. They are both highly experienced and it shouldn’t affect their seasons. Both receivers should be ready to go week one and they will be vital to Garapollo’s success.

Patriots Captain enters contract year

Matthew Slater has been a Patriot since 2008. He has been a vital leader within the locker room and is a stud special teamer. With that being said he has already been in the league for eight years and is up for a new contract. Slater is now 30 years old and needs to continue to play well in order to land a contract. It would be a shock if he isn’t extended to a new contract for upcoming seasons. Keep in mind he is listed as a wide receiver despite barely playing the position in his pro career.

Malcolm Mitchell favored as roster lock

Fourth round draft pick Malcolm Mitchell is believed to be a steal by some analysts and writers. Pro Football Focus analyzed his college snaps and highlighted his ability to adjust to poor passes. Mitchell is also a “varied route runner” that picked up a reception on nine different route types in 2015. He also uses his body well to shield defenders. Mitchell dropped just four of 93 catchable balls between 2014 and 2015. He was once considered as a top-10 prospect early in his career but a 2012 knee injury sent him down the draft board.

Mitchell is likely a wide receiver that will see playing time in his first season. He’s the best combination of talent, age, and contract money for the Patriots this upcoming season.

On the Bubble: Camp competition Brews 

With Edelman, Amendola, Hogan, Mitchell, and Slater there isn’t much room on the roster left for some very talented players. The rest of the players in camp are probably fighting for one spot. If they are lucky two spots. In this scenario I presume the Patriots will take one additional receiver.

Remaining wide receivers are Nate Washington, Keshawn Martin, Chris Harper, Aaron Dobson, DeAndre Carter, and Devin Lucien. Harper, Martin, Carter, and Dobson all return as Patriots veterans. Nate Washington is an older veteran getting the chance to make a playoff team. Dobson has been often injured despite his talents. Harper contributed last season but is mostly known for his horrendous muffed punt against Denver in the regular season.

Out of all the potential wide receivers Keshawn Martin and Nate Washington are the most intriguing prospects for the final roster spot. Martin has the benefit of being a special teams player. Washington is also older than Martin. Harper, Martin, Carter, and Dobson are all in jeopardy of missing the roster. Lucien is most likely a practice squad player as long as he shows progression during camp.

Bottom Line

The Patriots have plenty of depth and options when it comes to wide receiver in 2016. Edelman and Amendola will heal their injuries from last season and likely be ready for camp. Hogan will be a welcome addition with the departure of LaFell. Mitchell will look to make contributions as a rookie. Slater will be a likely roster lock due to his captaincy and special teams additions. Martin or Washington will be favored to make the 53 man roster over Harper, Dobson, Carter, and Lucien.