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Through six games the Patriots are 5-1 and appear to be in the position to make another run at the Super Bowl.
One area they still have a need for is an explosive, playmaker receiver who can stretch the field. Chad Ochocinco was brought in to fill that role but has done next to nothing so far, and has been relegated to a No. 5 option for Tom Brady.
While the argument can be made that the Patriots don’t need any more help in the receiving game, and that Wes Welker can be that big play target, we have seen that when teams contain Welker the Patriots are very restricted on offense (see last weeks game, and the playoff loss to the Jets).
Obviously the Patriot front office feels this is a need or they would not have made the trade for Ochocinco or allegedly shown interest in Brandon Lloyd. If this problem persists throughout the season, the Pats might want to address this through the draft.
The player that would best fill the Patriots need at receiver is Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State. Barring a shocking collapse by the Patriots or Saints (who’s first round pick the Patriots have), the Patriots will have to trade up to get Blackmon, but if they can get him, it will be worth it.
After redshirting his first year, and not making much of an impact his second year, Blackmon exploded onto the college football scene last year with 111 receptions for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Good enough to take home the Fred Biletnikoff Award given to the nation’s top receiver. Blackmon caught for over 100 yards and at least one touchdown in every game he played last year.
In OSU’s bowl game against Arizona, he put up 117 yards and two touchdowns. This year he has not been quite as dynamic, but still averages over 100 yards and one touchdown per game (608 yards and seven touchdowns).
Blackmon has drawn comparisons to former teammate Dez Bryant, the 2010 1st round pick of the Dallas Cowboys who the Patriots almost drafted.
Both are explosive athletes who come up with big plays downfield not just with speed, but with their ability to locate the ball in the air. Bryant has one inch and about 7-pound on Blackmon, but Blackmon put up better numbers at OSU and has none of the off-field question marks that plagued Bryant.
Simply put, Justin Blackmon would fulfill the role Randy Moss occupied so well when he was on the top of his game, and the role Chad Ochocinco was supposed to fill when the Patriots traded for him.
Blackmon is a true No. 1 receiver with the ability to beat the defense with his speed and to go up and make a play on off-target passes (if you don’t believe this check out Blackmon on Sports Science).
Deion Branch and Welker are great receivers, but neither has the ability to line up on the outside and beat a top corner deep. Welker is statistically the best receiver in the NFL, and unquestionably one of the greatest slot receivers in NFL history, but he does not fit the role of a No. 1 guy.
Branch is a solid player, but his talent is at running great routes — not beating guys deep. Blackmon showed he is a mismatch deep for even the best corner’s in the country. Last year he put up 157 yards and two touchdowns on future first round pick Prince Amakamura.
With Blackmon requiring consistent help over the top, it would only make the Patriots offense that much more effective.
The problem with Blackmon is that he is too good to fly under the radar. Barring a boneheaded off-field incident or a drastic decline in production, Blackmon projects to be a surefire top 10 pick, and possibly even a top 5 pick.
The Patriots have two first round picks but those picks belong to two of the best teams in the NFL, the Patriots themselves and the New Orleans Saints.
The Patriots look to be on pace to win between 12 and 14 games along with the division and the Saints should win between 10 and 12 games. This would give the Patriots a pick in the late 20s or early 30s and the Saints a pick in the early to mid 20s.
The Patriots also have two second round picks, one of their own and one of the Raiders. The Raiders are a wild card, they could conceivably tank and win only seven or eight games or take the division with 10 or 11.
To be safe lets assume the Raiders get a mid to late teen pick.
According to the draft pick value chart, in this scenario the Patriots would have about 1300-1360 points with their two first round picks and around 700 with their two second round picks.
This means that if the Patriots wanted to they could definitely strike a deal for the No. 4 pick in the draft (worth 1,800 points) and possibly for the No. 3 pick (worth 2,200) if they were willing to give up another pick or a player.
If Blackmon looks like he will fall to late in the top 10, the Pats could also trade just their two first round picks for the No. 9 or No. 10 pick (valued at 1350 and 1300 points respectively).
Obviously it goes very much against the Patriot way to trade several picks for just one, but in the case of Justin Blackmon, it could be worth the risk if he is the missing piece to a Super Bowl team.