Bedard: Stock watch – Who’s got the edge in the Patriots receiving competition?

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(Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Sorry to interrupt this telenovela spring/summer for the Patriots, but there is actual football* being played, and it picks up again Tuesday in the first of three mandatory minicamp workouts on the Gillette Stadium practice fields.

(* - OK, so there still won't be pads, but this is as close to actual football as we can get in today's NFL ... we'll take what we can get.)

One of the key positions this summer will be the competition at receiver, where the Patriots have too many bodies for too few spots.

Amazingly, there are only two receivers returning who actually had a role on the field at the end of last season: Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett.

Then you have the injury returners: Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell.

Weren't-in-the-mix guys: Matthew Slater, Kenny Britt, Riley McCarron, Cody Hollister.

Off-season acquisitions: Jordan Matthews, Cordarelle Patterson, Braxton Berrios.

That's 10 players (not counting Slater) for what are, typically, four to five spots. Maybe they could go to six, if the Patriots continue to treat the F "flex" position — typically a smaller tight end in the past — as a receiver spot.

There is a long way to go until the season opener, and a lot of things will happen — injuries, poor play, doghouses visited, etc. — that will factor into the final spots.

But there's no question the competition is on, and it will take another huge leap now that some guy named Tom Brady will be showing up to put these guys through their paces this week.

So periodically, we're going to give you our take on where the race is up to the final cutdown (not including Slater). Here's the snapshot/rankings going into minicamp:

No. 1: Julian Edelman
Position: Z slot with Flex abilities.
Cap/savings if cut: $4.166 million/$2.5 million
The good: Has slowly increased his workload on the field this offseason, as he comes back from the ACL. Looks good. Wouldn't say his cutting and burst is exactly at the elite status is was before the injury, but seems like it will get there -- or at least be good enough. Obviously has the best relationship with QB1.
The questionable: Will he have any of the sort of dips due to fatigue that are typical of guys coming back from an ACL? Will being close to Brady/Alex Guerrero actually be a negative given the state of things in Foxborough? But the biggest question: Will Edelman still be able to run the Z option route effectively after the injury? That's the whole key.
Skinny: We're expecting him to be close to usual self, but he may need to be managed, which could lead to team keeping an extra (third Z receiver) on the roster.

No. 2 Chris Hogan
Position: X with Z qualities and ability to play Flex.
Cap/savings if cut: $3.281 million/$3.281 million
The good: Same thing we've always seen — good hands, ability to get off man coverage, versatility to play any slot in the offense. If injuries happen, he's the guy who can easily play another spot in the game plan.
The questionable: Will he stay healthy? In two seasons with the Patriots, he's yet to play 16 games (15 and nine). It seems like every time he gets a bigger workload, he gets dinged up. Can he start? Or is he a platoon player?
Skinny: I would say Hogan's hold on this spot is tenuous, and only due to the fact there are so many new/unknown players. He really needs to stay healthy throughout camp. When he's on the field, he's really good.

No. 3. Kenny Britt
: X boundary receiver.