By the time the Patriots reached the third day of the 2010 NFL Draft, they had already drafted one bargain at tight end in Rob Gronkowski, and one Florida player who slipped due to character concerns in middle linebacker Brandon Spikes. That didn’t stop them from getting Aaron Hernandez, another player fitting both criteria, in Round 4.
Although known to be among the most skilled receiving tight ends in the 2010 draft class, he fell to Day 3 of the draft due to multiple positive tests for marijuana.
The Patriots’ risk turned into high reward.
Hernandez has been every bit the weapon he was expected to be for the Patriots’ passing offense, and has had no off-field issues in the past three years. As a result, the Patriots ended up with a legitimate first-round talent from a fourth-round pick.
An inside receiving target with great quickness, terrific route-running ability and who gets open consistently, Hernandez is an ideal complement to bigger, in-line tight end Gronkowski. Hernandez is not much of a blocker himself, used more in a flex/slot receiver role than as a traditional tight end, but he is a perfect fit for the role he plays in the Patriots’ offense.
Hernandez has been one of the Patriots’ best offensive playmakers over the past three seasons, catching 175 passes for 1,956 yards. Although Hernandez has yet to play a full 16-game season due to injuries, and was the sixth tight end drafted in 2010, only Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham — arguably the NFL’s two best tight ends — have more receptions and receiving yards thus far among tight ends drafted in 2010.
In a passing offense that is heavily predicated upon intermediate passing, Hernandez is a go-to offensive option.
After just two NFL seasons, the Patriots recognized Hernandez’s value and playmaking ability, rewarding him with a five-year, $40 million contract extension last offseason. At just 23 years of age, Hernandez has a bright future as a continuing playmaker in the Patriots’ offense.
By getting one of the best offensive playmakers from the 2010 NFL draft with a fourth-round pick, the Patriots got one of the 2010 draft’s greatest bargains, a bargain that should continue to pay off for many years to come.