10 possible Patriots: Markus Wheaton

With the NFL draft closing in, ESPNBoston.com is narrowing its list of prospects that it projects as the best fits for the Patriots at areas that seem likely the club could target:

Player: Markus Wheaton

School: Oregon State

Position: Wide receiver

Listed height/weight: 5-foot-11, 189 pounds

Scouts Inc. rank: 11th (scouting report)

Draft projection: Second round

Why he’s on our list: Receiver is arguably the Patriots’ greatest need, and Wheaton is one of the fastest and most complete prospects at the position. He was one of the team’s 30 pre-draft visitors at Gillette Stadium and served as a team captain with solid intangibles. He is dangerous with the ball in his hands, whether down the field or in the running game.

Recommended link: Alan Dumonjic, on Rotoworld, writes on comparisons between Wheaton and Mike Wallace.

Key stat: Averaged 13.5 and 13.7 yards per reception in each of the last two seasons at Oregon State. (school bio here).

Workout stat: He posted a 37-inch vertical leap.

Steve Muench of Scouts Inc.: “The 5110 and 189-pound Wheaton is on the leaner side and certain teams may project him as a slot receiver, but he can line up on the outside or the inside in our opinion. He does a nice job of using his hands and feet to get off the line when corners try to reroute him at the line of scrimmage when he lines up on the outside. Plus he can add a little bulk to his frame and he can compete for jump balls considering that he has a 37-inch vertical. The bigger issue when it comes to the measurements is his 8.5- inch hands and his 2012 Oregon tape gives front offices plenty to think about. He dropped several passes, muffed a punt and struggled to field the ball cleanly throughout against the Ducks. It’s not as bad as it seems though and a broader look at his body of work shows the Oregon game is the exception not the rule. He flashes the ability to catch the ball away from his frame and he rarely dropped passes he got his hands on outside that disappointing performance. The biggest reason he projects as a fringe second round pick is speed. He ran a 4.45 at the Combine and he’s not just a track star. It shows up on tape. He’s got the second gear to run under the deep ball and run away from pursuit when he gets a seam after the catch. He has limited experience as a return man and again his ability to field kicks is a concern but he has the potential to develop into a big-play threat in the return game as well. Finally, his ability to change directions quickly shows up in the ability to separate from man coverage and make defenders miss in space.”