On February 3rd, I had completed my analysis of WR prospects in this year's draft, the player I felt was the best fit for the Patriots was Aaron Dobson. As good as he was, I felt the Patriots would be able to wait until pick #59 to select him.
The general consensus of scouts on Aaron Dobson was that he was a late second, or early third round option. Many scouts rated the likes of troubled Da'Rick Rodgers, and the small Tavon Austin as better fits for the Patriots (or better talents period). But if there is one thing the Patriots do not need, or tolerate well, its players with character issues. Nor did they need another slot receiver to join the handful they already had on the roster.
To other teams, such as the Falcons, Lions, and Broncos, it is understandable why Dobson would not hold a particularly high value in their draft rooms. Those teams, and others, already had at least one solid outside threat, a deep threat, a physical and fast WR.
But for the Patriots, it was a glaring need that they had suffered for not filling the past few seasons, since trading Moss to the Vikings. Despite their incredible success during the past three seasons during the regular season, they have not been able to attain the ultimate success, and win the Super Bowl.
The Patriots' Offense has proven to be too easy to stop in the playoffs without a legitimate outside WR threat, we have seen this three years running in the playoffs (Jets, Giants, Ravens). When Gronkowski was injured in the 2011 and 2012 post season runs, combined with no deep threat, the Patriots have been stopped by Defenses which could focus on clogging up the middle and keeping things in front of them without worrying about the big play deep. In order for the Patriots to excel come playoff time in 2013, that had to be changed.
And the Patriots selected the best option available in the 2013 draft, to do just that.
Here are five reasons why Aaron Dobson will shine as a rookie:
#1 Physical Tools
Dobson uses long strides to get down the field and stretch the defense vertically with his sub 4.5 speed. I would rate him as an elite pass catcher, able to make difficult catches without breaking stride. Dobson has a background in basketball, which lends to his good body control and leaping ability, which makes him an excellent red-zone target with his ability to go up and get the football. He uses his body well to box out and create passing lanes for the quarterback. He has a great feel for changing speeds and shielding the defense away from his reception. He has good awareness and recognition of when to sit down in zone coverage, and he has an innate (un-teachable) ability to make the catch a more average receiver can't.
When watching this short clip (below) of him at the Senior Bowl, watch how the defender is right on him, and then with a move to the outside and three strides, he has created two steps of separation from the defender and would have had a clear lane to the End Zone if the ball was placed properly. In the next attempt, watch how he is creating separation without any change of direction, and if he had not had to wait for the ball to arrive, and been face masked, he would have had an easy TD.
Many say it takes a lot of confidence in oneself to make a great cornerback in the NFL, being stuck out on an island against the best receivers is not a job for the meek. A similar mindset has to be held to make a successful Patriots' receiver. It doesn't matter if you are in the slot or outside, if you aren't supremely confident in your abilities, you won't last in this system. When Chad 'Ocho' Johnson came to the Patriots, he sounded more like an astounded fan than a player when he talked about the offense. He also talked about how demanding it was, to me his words often sounded like someone who was overwhelmed, or believed himself unable to meet the demands of what was expected of him.
Similar types of comments, the 'I'll try my best' 'I hope I can learn the system' not quite confident, more than just humble, statements were heard from the likes of Taylor Price not too long before he was released. Right now Aaron Dobson seems wholly confident in himself and his abilities, and not at all awed by being a Patriot. The short clip below is one sign of his confidence, he is already practicing his TD routines.
To the best of my knowledge, Dobson has no known legal issues and has a good reputation as a leader on and off the field. According to Bill Belichick, Dobson displayed a football intelligence that put him in a class above many of the other candidates. Belichick stated that during the interview process, Dobson was especially impressive breaking down plays.
"You talk to him about what he did [on a play] and he can explain the techniques, the assignments, what other guys were doing at Marshall,’’ Belichick said. ‘We’d look at [Patriots' plays on film], and come back and talk about it. He remembered how we did them, what we called them, things like that.’’
"He’s a pretty intelligent guy... he had a good understanding and grasp of learning, taking new information and processing that and being able to understand that and apply it,’’ Belichick said. "I think he’s a pretty impressive kid. He’s a mature kid. He’s pretty smart.’’
#4 Work Ethic
Dobson has excellent work habits according to coaches, making it likely he could be incorporated into the offense and be successful working for the very demanding Brady, this is another critical aspect of what to look for in any potential Patriots receiver.
Gerard Parker, the current tight ends coach at Purdue and former wide receivers coach at Marshall said that “AD is a good guy,” and commented on how he matured during his time at Marshall, learning the type of work that needs to be put into being a great player.
“If he stays healthy and gets in there with a good group of a wideouts, I think the sky’s the limit for him,” said Parker.
#5 Tom Brady
Tom Brady has made average receivers look great, and good receivers look like the best there was in the NFL at their position. Players like David Patten and Deon Branch had minimal impacts with the other teams they played with, but with Brady, they became household names. Randy Moss looked like he was a season or two away from being on the NFL scrap heap, but when he teamed up with Tom Brady, all they did was re-write the NFL record books. I have no doubt that if Dobson gets in-sync with Brady, and gains his trust, Dobson's rookie season will fall somewhere in-between Branch's rookie season, and Moss' first season with the Patriots, production wise.
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