While the Patriots certainly have more pressing needs, the Randy Moss and Deion Branch trades have put wide receivers on the collective mind of Patriots fans nationwide. This week, we'll take a look at a few of the promising receivers expected to be available in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Michael Floyd is a fluid Notre Dame receiver that is certainly turning heads with his impressive return from injury.
Floyd isn't the best route-runner in the nation, but has improved during his time with the new coaching staff. Last year, Golden Tate was also a very poor route-runner for the Irish.
To offset this route-running issue, Floyd has learned to use his body to effectively "box-out" the defensive backs. His effective possession receiver skills, paired with his sneaky speed, make Floyd a dangerous vertical and mid-level threat.
Leonard Hankerson (Miami), who has been the recipient of many a Jacory Harris pass this fall, has started to appear on the radar of NFL scouts.
The 6'3", 205 lb. Hurricane is a guy that high-points the ball with ease and is a great red-zone threat. He has decent speed, but won't be able to take the top off of an NFL defense.
Hankerson doesn't have elite fundamentals, but is an intriguing prospect that will probably be available in the 3rd or 4th round, where the Patriots have four picks.
Alabama's Julio Jones, who has played under Coach Belichick's friend and colleague Nick Saban, is the most enigmatic of the elite 2011 NFL Draft WR class.
At first glance, Jones reminds us of a Brandon Marshall-esque type receiver that can dominate after the catch. Jones has decent speed and good acceleration, but all the separation he can create is wasted at times by suspect hands and/or lack of concentration.
If he is committed to the game and willing to improve in his deficiencies, Jones could be an All-Pro receiver at the next level. That said, the floor is as low as the ceiling is high.
We've talked about Pitt receiver Jonathan Baldwin before, but we've seen an interesting development the last two weeks. His effort level has been incredibly spotty, something to definitely keep an eye on.
With all the talk about Randy Moss the last few days, the Patriots have to be certain they would be getting an early New England vintage Moss, rather than the Oakland variety.
Some of you might be asking where the consensus #1 receiver is on this list. We'll detail Georgia's AJ Green at a later date-he deserves a post all by himself-but it doesn't look like the Raider's 1st Round pick will be high enough to select the talented bulldog.
Other less-heralded receivers that the Patriots have shown interest in include Darrell Johnson-Koulianos of Iowa, Deandre Brown of Southern Miss, and Tori Gurley of South Carolina. All expect to be mid-round picks next spring.
James Christensen's scouting updates will appear here on PatriotsInsider.com throughout the year. James is the publisher of NEPatriotsDraft.com, an independent website dedicated to covering the NFL Draft and college prospects with professional potential.