With free agency to begin March 11, and the draft from May 8-10, one thing NFL teams generally do at this time is marry the two to better assess the best approach to filling potential needs.
For example, if a team knows it's a deep draft for top-quality offensive tackles (2014 is such), it might be less inclined to be as aggressive at that position in free agency. With this in mind, our plan is to look at each position in the coming days through a similar lens.
Next on the list: Wide receiver
Draft: This is a deep class, boosted significantly by the influx of underclassmen. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projects that anywhere from six to nine receivers could be selected in the first round, with teams getting value at the position into the third and fourth round.
Free agency: Similar to the draft, there is no shortage of options for teams looking to upgrade. Denver's Eric Decker is one of the top receivers set to hit the market, although his performance in the Super Bowl might lead some clubs to proceed with caution. Anquan Boldin (49ers), Hakeem Nicks (Giants), Riley Cooper (Eagles) and Jeremy Maclin (Eagles) are other notables who figure to command attention from receiver-needy teams. Patriots receiver Julian Edelman should rate highly for clubs looking for a more shifty type, while Emmanuel Sanders (Steelers), Jerricho Cotchery (Steelers), Golden Tate (Seahawks) and Jacoby Jones (Ravens) are among a group of players who likely will have some value in the marketplace.
Patriots perspective: After drafting two receivers in 2013 (second-rounder Aaron Dobson and fourth-rounder Josh Boyce) and having a third emerge via the undrafted pipeline (Kenbrell Thompkins), the Patriots project to be more inclined to eye experience at receiver. While they could always draft another pass-catcher, the feeling here is that if it happens it would probably be later in the draft. Thus, we'd project free agency as the more likely avenue the team pursues, depending on what happens with Edelman.