Mailbag: Who parties harder, Gronk or Johnny Football?

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I’m trying to gauge the Patriots outlook at wide receiver in 2014. My thought is that the team might drop Kenbrell Thompkins as a result of the LaFell signing and Josh Boyce seemingly climbing the depth chart. –Alex from Deerfield, MA

That is a very real possibility, but far from a certainty. Kenbrell Thompkins – affectionately known as “KT” by his quarterback – showed that he has a lot to offer as an undrafted free agent last season. He finished the regular season with 32 receptions for 466 yards and 4 TDs (including the dramatic game-winner against New Orleans in Week 6). He was also in the doghouse for portions of the season and ultimately contributed nothing in the postseason. Zero catches on three targets. Is that worse than nothing?

Entering 2014 – draft aside – the Patriots have ten wide receivers under contract with room for six or seven on the 53-man roster. Let’s consider Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, and Matthew Slater (for special teams purposes) to be locks for roster spots. On the other end of the spectrum, Reggie Dunn and Greg Orton are longshots. That leaves Boyce, Mark Harrison, Brandon LaFell, and KT competing for the remaining two or three spots.

The most likely scenario is that the team would hold on to Boyce, LaFell, and KT, while designating Harrison to the practice squad (he is eligible, as he was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and spent the entirety of the season on the Reserve/NFI list). With that in mind, all four of the guys in this bubble group are going to be competing intensely with each other throughout training camp, but there is no reason the team can’t find a spot for the remaining three receivers on the 53-man roster.

The Patriots’ greatest need in the 2014 NFL Draft is at the safety position. However, I’m not convinced that that is where the Patriots should be using their first-round pick. Ideally you want to draft a real playmaker with your first pick. I only see two of those at the safety position this year: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix out of Alabama and Calvin Pryor out of Louisville. Since both of them will almost certainly be off the board by the time the Pats pick, they might as well hold off and try to find some value in the later rounds.

Safety isn’t the only position of need for the Pats. They need some youth and depth defensive tackle as well, and are much more likely to find an impact player with the 29th pick. If Louis “Irish Chocolate” Nix III from Notre Dame falls to that spot, he would be my pick. He has the size, talent, and motor to replicate what a young Vince Wilfork once did for this team.

Far and away the toughest question in this week’s mailbag. I’m pretty much stumped. There’s no right answer. Something tells me I have to go with Gronk, though. Johnny Football’s excursions have hit a transitional period. He wants to reshape his image to show NFL GMs that he can be a franchise quarterback. He’s gone from this:

 

to this:

What does that even mean?

On the other hand, there is still only one thing in Gronk’s mind on a night out: he’s here to party. No glitz. No glamour. This is the guy I want to party with:

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Thanks to everyone for the emails. Tweet all your Patriots-related questions, comments, and stories to @cover32_NE or @TC_Howard. You can also email questions to tanner@cover32.com.

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