2014 NFL Draft: Postseason Thoughts on Four Tight Ends

Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz should garner plenty of interest leading up to May’s NFL draft. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

The NFL regular season is in its final week, which means that many front offices are setting their sights towards May’s NFL draft. Yet like all organizations in playoff contention, the offseason evaluations of the 11-4 New England Patriots remain on the back burner.

But with many college prospects suiting up for perhaps the final time this bowl season, an unrelenting reminder is in place – the NFL’s future is only months away. And one position that figures to draw its share of intrigue in the near future is tight end.

For Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio and football research director Ernie Adams, it’s a position that will be monitored closely from here on out.

Now this draft may not carry the deepest tight end pool. It may not carry the highest level of firepower, either. But regardless, it carries prospects who could fit New England’s personnel and schematic need.

In light of that, here is a closer look at four tight ends the Patriots could take an interest in over the coming months.

Eric Ebron, North Carolina – 6’4”, 245-pound Junior

North Carolina’s Eric Ebron plays on punt return and kick return units. He lines up in in-line, in the slot, in the seam and out wide. He’s no stranger to five-wide sets and will be a sought-after talent for two-tight end offenses. He has the makings of a first-round draft pick.

A prominent runner of post, dig, out, curl and screen patterns, Ebron is resilient off the line in separating from defenders and dynamic after the catch. He catches the ball in stride and has the field vision, as well as lateral movement to break 10-yard receptions into 40-yard ones. A first-team All-ACC selection, Ebron looks the part as a mid-air attacker, adjusting to make difficult and sometimes acrobatic grabs. Ebron’s open-field and sideline ability creates opportunities for teammates; he has the body of work to attract safety coverage over top and free the outskirts.

He could have a better catch radius and hands. He also has a tendency to drop the easier passes but is improving in that respect. In terms of blocking, he must improve his positioning, as he can get lost on a play and allow opponents to sidestep him en route to the backfield. In that area, he can be a liability when he relies on his hands to make up for lapses in footwork and downhill leverage.

Ebron is not a complete tight end. Although when considering the entire product, the two-year starter has the skill set, the speed and fluid motion to develop into a Vernon Davis-style player down the road. NFL scouts will be hard pressed to find a better athlete at the tight end position in the 2014 draft. And he’s only 20 years old.

Jace Amaro, Texas Tech – 6’5”, 260-pound Junior

Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro lines up as a wide receiver, in the slot, in the seam, as an H-back and in-line. The 21-year-old has the size and strength to sustain blocks at the point of attack and force his opponents back with low pad level and punch. And while he’s not the prototypical “Y” tight end, Amaro looks to be a better blocker than his catch totals suggest.

As a receiver, he runs smooth and has an eye for finding space on vertical routes. But he also has the build to work the underneath-to-intermediate ground and make contested receptions. Amaro is turn-key when it comes of catching the ball away from his body and reeling it in on the run. And after the catch, he showcases competitive speed and vision to net extra yards. Although not elusive, he can fight for ground and lower his shoulder to acquire first downs.

His first full season as starter was just this fall. In which, the San Antonio native continued drives and punched in touchdowns with a steady clip of eight receptions per game.  And even if his superior production came in the Red Raiders’ air-raid attack, Amaro was a heavily targeted option for good reason.

While not a burner, Amaro is a sound route-runner, pass-catcher and run-blocker, and those three strong suits make him a well-rounded prospect for almost any offensive scheme. If he decides to declare, he figures to be a first-day candidate.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington – 6’6”, 276-pound Junior

A former Washington Huskies basketball player, Austin Seferian-Jenkins has the size to establish the red zone and the line of scrimmage as both a target and blocker. In the passing game, he is seen lining up on the line, off the line as a wing, as an H-back and in the slot. And in the running game, he uses his bulk efficiently to drive through linebackers and ends.

Some refinement in respect to hand use and leverage would serve Seferian-Jenkins well – as more agile edge rushers stunt him and thrust him upright. Moreover, he lacks the quickness to separate, but his ability to compete for the football alone is another dynamic of separation in itself.

With long arms and a thick frame, No. 88 is hard to miss; his catch extension exemplifies that sentiment as well. Now this year’s John Mackey Award winner is not the most explosive pass-catcher, nor is he the type of player who will take over a game. Still, he can shift into second gear when open space allots for it. And from there, his power and momentum is hard for defenders – especially defensive backs – to halt. Because of that, Seferian Jenkins is an underrated option on quick screens and outs.

At this point, the 21-year-old is not a finished product. The rise of Ebron and Amaro has likely relegated Seferian-Jenkins to the second tier. Yet as a towering target with the upside to mismatch defensive backfields, the second tier isn’t a bad place to be.

C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa – 6’6”, 265-pound Senior

Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz is the top senior tight end in the country, and it’s because the 22-year-old is as steady as they come. Fiedorowicz isn’t outstanding as an athlete or a receiver. But as far as all the requirements in the job description go, he does them well. His starting experience with the Hawkeyes dates back to his sophomore season in 2011. And he’s well-versed as a special-teamer and secondary tight end, too.

More of a conventional in-line tight end who can be an asset as a tall and well-grounded blocker, Fiedorowicz knows how to establish the edge and thrust his opponent away from the C-gap. He possesses ideal length to hold his own out of the gate. As a receiver, Fiedorowicz is – in a word – reliable. He can fend off jams at the line of scrimmage and find the soft spot secure the football. He’s physical and uses good body lean to sway defenders. And his hands have proven to be worth trusting in the mid-range passing game.

Post reception, Fiedorowicz lacks breakaway speed and the change of direction to eclipse his man. He appears to have reached his limit in that respect. Nevertheless, he has the route-running ability and decisiveness to outlast coverage – notably inside the 20-yard line. So while he may never be a game-breaker, there’s reason to believe Fiedorowicz will be a plus-receiver and an A-plus-blocker at the next level.

And for what it’s worth, Fiedorowicz has been under the tutelage of Kirk Ferentz – a former offensive line coach from Belichick’s tenure with the Cleveland Browns.

Tags: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro

93 Responses to “2014 NFL Draft: Postseason Thoughts on Four Tight Ends”

  1. Darin says:

    think that ASJ is a great tight end for the Patriots. U saw what the patriots have done with two tight ends. I say give tom brady great talent in his ending years.

    I can see them going and getting larry. With the lack a veteren reciever, he would be a great fit for brady. it would open things for gronk and others. I can see them trading away ridley and a draft pick for larry. Ridly has had fumbling problems and BB will have nothing to do with that. Cardinals dont have a good running back with mendenhall a free agent and wells not really known what your really going to get.

    Starting line up

    Qb Brady
    5 line man
    TE gronk and ASJ
    WR amendola and Larry
    Rb vereen

  2. Darin says:

    Go Pats…

  3. Darin says:

    I think that ASJ is a great tight end for the Patriots. U saw what the patriots have done with two tight ends. I say give tom brady great talent in his ending years.

    I can see them going and getting larry. With the lack a veteren reciever, he would be a great fit for brady. it would open things for gronk and others. I can see them trading away ridley and a draft pick for larry. Ridly has had fumbling problems and BB will have nothing to do with that. Cardinals dont have a good running back with mendenhall a free agent and wells not really known what your really going to get.

    Starting line up

    Qb Brady
    5 line man
    TE gronk and ASJ
    WR amendola and Larry
    Rb vereen

  4. Daniel R. Martin says:

    On a separate note, how do you guys like our chances to getthrough the AFC playoff field, especially Denver on the road?

    • Darin says:

      I believe that the patriots still have a good shot at making a super bowl run. Denver would be a great challenge without gronk. When we played them we were running the ball down there throats ans passing game was doing good. We cant turn the ball over and have to put up points on every position and high rate of TDS!!!!! Shane Amendola and the pats defense will have to step up.

    • steve earle says:

      Good question Dan. Over the years I’ve learned never bet against the Patriots. Still that looks like a tough road ahead.

  5. Daniel R. Martin says:

    This is my first attempt at completing a mock draft. I’m just having some fun here. I welcome any and all help filling the rest of this thing out. I don’t watch college ball and I’m a relatively new football fan. So, any feedback will be appreciated. My ideas may be more than a little unconventional.

    Last year BB was able to trade the Pats 1st round pick for picks in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th rounds. I am amazed that he was able to get so much for a 29th overall pick. This year the Patriots will hopefully hold the 32nd overall pick, and to my understanding, this year is a deeper draft talent wise. In my mock the Pats front office (BB) has managed to swindle another team out of picks in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds for their 1st round pick. Also, in my fantasy mock Ryan Mallet has been traded for a 3rd round pick during the free agency period leading up to the draft. The Patriots traded their 5th round pick for Sopoaga and received a 6th in exchange. Another poster has posted a mock accounting for projected compensatory picks in the 6th and 7th rounds. I will do the same.

    2 – Best available TE (hopefully Austin Seferian-Jenkins) A 6th and 7th may need to be packaged in a trade to move up in the 2nd to get him. Or take C.J. Fiedorowicz in the 3rd if ASJ isn’t available.
    2 – Trevor Reilly DE ( Projected to be a 2nd round pick, however a team may reach for him early in the 2nd.)
    3 – Chris Boreland ILB
    3 – Carl Bradford OLB
    3 – Brandon Coleman WR
    4 – Craig Loston SS
    4 – Dri Archer RB/WR/PR/KR – “An explosive running back who could also flank out to the slot and be a major weapon in the return game. He has great balance and amazing acceleration. His versatility to play multiple positions will make him a true mystery on the NFL level. Archer reminds me of a T.Y. Hilton/Ted Ginn Jr. type of player with the running/catching ability of Darren Sproles.” Sub 4.3 speed.
    6 — Colt Lyerla TE
    6 – Aaron Murray QB
    C6 – Seantrell Henderson OT
    7 – Best Available Player – Or trade to move up in earlier rounds.
    C7 – Best Available Player – Or trade to move up in earlier rounds.

    • steve earle says:

      New to football, Hmmmm. Your a quick learner Dan you have several nice picks here but not sure they reflect our needs and some appear to be taken to high others to low. I can see AJS or TCF as placed, good calls, but taking Reilly then a couple LS I question because 1) if you take a LB he should be a 3 down guy inside or out. (I assume your counting Spikes gone) If you do that it should make a DE unnecessary as Hightower can slide into that roll. Not sure either of the LB’s you picked are those kinds of player though. I’d suggest Danzel Perryman LB Miami if line backer you want. A solid 2nd round pick. 2) Brandon Colemen will not in any likelyhood be around where you have him but would be a good pick higher up. 3) glad to see you take a SS that’s a true need. My favorite there would be Ahmad Dixon Baylor. Has speed, sixe plays the run and pass equally well. 4) Santrell Henderson late is okay but needs look more to inside line C/G but he might work there too. Kind of tall, wonder if Tom couls see over him? 5) Dri Archer would be very interesting/exciting providing he can survive in the NFL. He would have to keep the hits down but with his speed and agility he just might.
      Now in spite of my having been doing this for over 40 years you could be more right then I and my suggestions are just that as are all those who mock here so don’t take things said here wrong. We all just like to shair thoughts and ideas and I gan-ron-tee not one of us will get it right when Bill drafts.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        Hey Steve, thanks for the feedback. I can definitely see the logic in your points.

        I would be ecstatic if we signed another big bodied receiving target, and Brandon Coleman at 6′-05″ 220# is one of the biggest in the draft. Coming from Rutgers, he didn’t exactly face SEC level competition. But he appears to be long, rangy, powerful and faster than quick, especially in space. We all know how BB feels about Rutgers prospects. I hope he goes for him.

        I was very excited about Dobson when he was selected. The story on him in college was that he was Mr. Dependable. A lengthy, quick receiver with a tremendous catch radius, made possible by hands that couldn’t have been surer if they were covered in stick’em. Hopefully Dobson will pan out. Thomkins seemed promising as a player who could adequately fill a Deion Branch role. But we need a legitimate starter at wideout. I don’t believe in Amendola. I am still a firm believer in the slot game. I am encouraged by the emerging run game, and I am optimistic about a potential return to the 2 TE set format NE pioneered. However, I think we will remain unbalanced and less competitive without a legitimate deep game.

        I think Coleman may go mid-way through the second. But I didn’t think a mock including him as a 2nd round selection would go over very well, considering the needs we continue to have on defense. I just don’t think we need to focus too heavily on the defensive side of the ball following a season that showed an improvement on defense and the most anemic, low scoring offense we have fielded in more than half a decade.

        I am intrigued by the prospect of an offensive combination of Gronk, Austin Seferian-Jenkins & Colt Lyerla at TE, Vereen, Blount, Ridley & Dri Archer at RB, Edelman & Amendola playing slot receiver, and Dobson, Brandon Coleman & Thompkins at WR. We do need some added O-line depth.However, this offensive lineup would be explosive.

        I think Craig Loston could be a serious playmaker at the SS position. I feel strongly about the existence of a great need for a smash mouth hitter playing deep in the secondary. I feel as though Loston represents a serious value for the 4th round, in which he is currently projected to be taken.

        Dri Archer is another significant value for the 4th round. He is a versatile player who can contribute at the RB/WR/PR/KR positions, and while he may not necessarily satisfy a need, he certainly would add an offensive element the patriots have never really had. I can’t remember anyone as fast as Archer. And that includes Jeff Demps.

        Colt Lyerla has 1st – 2nd round talent and he can be had in the 6th or 7th rounds. He could be a bigger steal than Alfonzo Dennard.

        I feel like ASJ is a must in the 2nd round.

        I believe trading Ryan Mallet for a 3rd and replacing him with Aaron Murray in the 4th will provide us an upgrade at backup QB and a higher round pick to boot.

        Chris Borland and Carl Bradford were both listed on the 2013 “Athletic Freaks list,” as was Dri Archer. They are both high motor guys who can cover as well as provide a push into opposing backfields.

        I’m stuck on Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE, Brandon Coleman WR, Craig Loston SS, Dri Archer RB/WR/PR/KR, Colt Lyerla TE, and Aaron Murray QB to a far lesser extent.

        Additionally, I’m looking for (1) a solid edge rusher to bookend the D-line with Chandler Jones. I’d like to find (2) an OLB to assist in pass rushing efforts, who can also cover the middle of the field. (3) I’d like to find an ILB who can cover TE’s and slot receivers, but can also help create interior pressure in opposing backfields following the up-front push of Vince Wilfork. That’s 9 picks out of a projected 12 slots. This projection accounts for trading the 1st round pick for a 2,3 & 4, compensatory picks, and a trade of Ryan Mallet for a 3rd. He may be worth a second.

        With the remaining 3 picks I’d like to acquire backup depth for the O-Line, a stronger FS that covers well and tackles hard, and a defensive lineman to line up next to Vince and contain the run. Preferably one that can collapse the pocket.

        I’d really appreciate some help plugging these players and positions into my mock. Thanks Steve. Everyone’s input is welcome.

        • alan says:

          those players would be great. brandon coleman reminds of demaryius thomas. dude is a beast. but i dont think the pats would select that many skill position players. i want asj on the pats so bad.

        • steve earle says:

          Dan, don’t worry about how your picks would be received, others always have different ideas, besides you defended your reasoning quite well here already. Throwing out different ideas gets everyone thinking. It’s good for us.
          I too like the idea of ASJ and Gronk together. Lyerla, as someone noted a couple days ago, would be a pr nightmare after Hernandaz, but he does have talent.
          I really like our backfield now and Archer would be a good addition. With Blount’s breakout games I’m going to suggest the unthinkable. Trade Ridley to Cleveland who needs a RB desperatly and would overlook his occasional fumbles. We could expect a 2nd rd for him, #36 I think, maybe a later pick too. That would give us Blount and Bolden as power backs Vereen and Archer as speed/receiving backs and Develin at FB. Not a bad lineup.
          I still can’t see Mallett receiving any attention until after the draft, probably during the season whan someones QB goes down. To many QB’s in the draff class.
          You like Loston I like Dixon we both recognize the need for that tough SS. Couple guys schelded to become fa’s are JT Ward Cleveland looking for a payday and Cleveland owner a noted tightward, and Jarius Byrd Buff. might fit the bill there too.
          Borland and Bradford I’m not sure of. I see their 40 times in the upper 4.7′s like Hightower. I’ll wait for the combine before I make any judgements there. Related note, Miami OLB Danzel Perryman has the speed and production for our needs there plus that would allow Hightower to slide into the DE position. With he, Ninkovich and Jones we would have one of the best DE rotations around.
          As for the 6′s and 7′s your guess is as good as mine. No one outside the teams inner circles have all the fine details and just as often an UDFA is better then who they draft anyway. My advice is go by your own gut you have good instincts.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        That is a brilliant suggestion concerning Ridley. I concur that Vereen and Blount make him obsolete, especially with a capable Bolden around for backup depth, and a pass catching speedster would provide a new dimensional dynamic to our one dimensional RB corp.

        I appreicate all of the help Steve.

        Is there a forum on which I can publish my mock? I’m a hyperanalytical person and I’ve spent days fixated on a draft that is nearly 1/2 a year away. It would seem less a waste of time if I could continue this discussion.

        • steve earle says:

          Never tried to publish any of mine so no idea, sorry.

        • Alex says:

          Try the SBN sites.

          Google ‘Mocking the Draft’ for their draft coverage, and ‘Pats Pulpit’ for the Patriots coverage. Given yours is a Pats only draft, I’d suggest posting it as a Fanpost at Pats Pulpit.

          Sign up there, and then look for the create a fanpost link on the left hand side.

    • kevan says:

      seems like you both got one up on me with the prospects. i dont watch much college ball. i will say the oregon te colt lyerla does look good. might be trouble though, quit his team then got popped with cocaine. thats serious. generally speaking about this draft though, what looks promising is alot of tackles,wr’s, and qb’s goin in the first. pats are pretty secure in those spots, that will help getting a player they like at another position. i say early possibilties are te,db,de,interior line. mid rounds look for value at qb. get the best player available late like buchannon and beauharnias last year. deanthony thomas from oregon looks like an explosive playmaker with tavon austin, percy harvin-ish skills. dt from pitt looks good too. aaron donald or something. smaller pass rush type dude.

    • J H TARBORO says:

      If you look back in archives i mentioned Dri Archer in the spring, he ran 4.21 40yds. as a junior at Kent St.
      and won the MAC Conference Championship as junior, this year he was injured early in the season but still had a good personal season. Dri is a RB that runs between the tackles, and has the most incredible field vision that i witnessed in RB in a long time, this year Kent lined Dri in the slot, one word “DANGEROUS. Drafttek has Dri at #195 or 196 which is crazy, he won’t be a 5th round pick trust me. At the Combine he may be the first to run a sub 4.2, you heard it here first!!! I will beat the drum for this kid!

      • steve earle says:

        Yes I recall you were high on Archer JH and BB tried to bring in a speedster with that track star Demps a couple years ago. Demps is hurt whether he didn’t dedicate himself to conditioning for football or because of size I don’t know but small guys generally tend to slip down in the draft so the projections for him may not be that far off, don’t know. Anyway if Bill likes the guy I’d approve using a 4th for him. Higher then that we need for more critical needs I think.

    • Alex says:

      Hi Daniel. It’s a good effort, introduced me to Trevor Reilly too, who I haven’t heard much about. As requested I’ll give some pick by pick feedback, but first some general thoughts. I like putting the first round trade in, some don’t but if it can be realistic, then it’s good I think.

      I don’t like the Mallett trade though, because it is too unlikely. He has shown nothing as a pro, and trading him is just a fan’s dream at this point. Even if McDaniels takes the Cleveland job, and with Bill O’Brien at Texas, we have no idea if they think Mallett is any good, let alone worth passing up all/most of the QBs in the draft to trade for. So I’d leave that out.

      I’d also leave out the comp picks, as they’re tricky to predict, and I don’t think we will get any this year, as I think we signed as many guys as we lost.

      2 –Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE. I love the selection, he was touted as a top 10 guy before the season, and has dropped stock because he has blocked more. His blocking has improved, and he’s the closest thing to Gronk there is. Feel that if he slips into the second, he won’t make it out of the top 8 or so selections, so we’d probably need to trade up from a mid second.

      2 – Trevor Reilly DE. I don’t know anything about him, but I think this is high to take a DE given the players we have at the position, unless his upside is considered to be huge. I’d wait to the third or lower.

      3 – Chris Boreland ILB. I like Borland as a potential cover guy, who may be overlooked due to his size.

      3 – Carl Bradford OLB. I also like Bradford, but see him as a similar option to Borland, so I’d take one, and focus on another position.

      3 – Brandon Coleman WR. I think this is the kind of value and potential, as well as different option, that would make sense if we are to draft a WR this early. Given his size and speed combo, and his lack of good QB play, a good developmental and red area option. Although we have his predecessor in Mark Harrison on the roster already.

      4 – Craig Loston SS. My least favourite pick. Loston isn’t even liked by LSU fans that much, as he’s a liability in coverage, who looks for the big hit over playing sound football. People keep wanting a big hitter on our team, and I’m for it, as long as the guys is a great cover guy. Loston isn’t, and is likely to get beaten in coverage regularly, and accrue penalties when he does finally make a play. For the back seven, coverage skills should be one of the first points on the positives, not on the weaknesses side.

      4 – Dri Archer RB/WR/PR/KR. Good pick, like what he could offer, as a schemed play weapon sued for 10-15 snaps a game, as well as on STs. Especially if we lose Edelman there.

      6 — Colt Lyerla TE. My favourite pick. A first round talent, who drops because of character concerns, offers Hernandez like upside, and Hernandez like red flags. Despite the flack we’d get, this is nothing but a smart pick. Some guys just aren’t cut out for college, and with our locker room, and a zero tolerance policy, he could prove to be a playmaker. He’d need to answer the coke concerns well though.

      6 – Aaron Murray QB. A good solid value pick. He’d be a good back up, although we’d need a vet for his first year, given he’d likely miss all of camp due to injury. That would work if we kept Mallett though, and PUP’d then IR’d Murray.

      C6 – Seantrell Henderson OT. I’d be surprised if he dropped this far, but if he did, then it’s a great upside pick.

      7 – Best Available Player. NA.

      C7 – Best Available Player. You can’t trade compensatory picks, so you’d have to pock someone with it, and trade a regular pick.

  6. kevan says:

    there are players that will play better in certain systems, yes. reggie bush will not fit in a power i run the ball 30 times down your throat. but some players will play good in any system cuz they have that kind of talent. gronk AND hernandez can play in any system they are that good. too bad ahern turned out to be a sociopath. which is exactly why he fell to the 4th round. most teams said 1st rd talent but…..yea we all know. make no mistake hernandez would of been good anywhere if he wasnt so angry and paranoid. as far as offensive strategy i think its simple pats had to adjust without there guys. they drafted wr’s thinkin they were fairly set at te. as far as the draft goes i think after the combine we will have a better feel for the players. and after free agency a better sense for what the pats need. as of right now ebron and ASJ look really talented and worth a 1st. some other strong prospects as well. id be really surprised if we dont hear a tight ends name called for the pats come draft day.

  7. MaineMan says:

    Here’s the thing for me about drafting TEs:

    Going back to 2000, only (5 of 14) TE draft classes have produced more than 2 rookies who posted 400+ receiving yards *OR* 4+ TDs, and only 2 draft classes have produced more than 2 of both – 2010 (4) and 2013 (4).

    For comparison, the average WR draft class over the same period produced 7 rookies who posted 400+ yards *AND* 4 who posted 4+ TDs.

    A few points to derive from this:

    1) The fact that BB came up with TWO TEs out of ONE draft class who BOTH posted over 500 yards *AND* 6+ TDs is a hands-down freakin’ miracle that is likely never to be repeated.
    2) What the above stat indicates is that even the TEs who have gone on to become good, much less elite, receiving contributors (rare to begin with) have rarely posted as much as 300+ yards or 3 TDs as rookies. Most didn’t become significant receivers until their 2nd or even 3rd seasons.
    3) Expectations for what any TE the Pats draft in 2014 may contribute as a rookie – regardless in what round – should probably be tempered a bit.
    4) It’s notable that BB came out of the 2013 draft weekend with two WRs who BOTH have posted over 400 yards AND 4 TDs, although one was UDFA. For comparison, Decker and Thomas of Denver COMBINED for 28 catches/389 yards and 3 TDS as 2010 rookies. Of course, 2013 was one of two exceptionally deep WR classes (the other being 2009), which produced 11 rookies with 400+ yards and 8 with 4+ TDs.

    Which leads into the next observation – that the Pats will be heading into 2014 with Amendola, probably Edelman, PLUS Dobson and Thompkins with a season’s experience under their belts. PLUS they have Harrison and Moe (on IR)from that same deep WR class. The point being that the Pats don’t absolutely NEED to do anything about TE “early.” They’re highly unlikely to get a guy even close to Gronk-level no matter how early they take him, and all they really need at this point is a guy who can block adequately and be more prolific at receiving than Hooman (12 of 19 for 136 yds and a TD).

    Assuming that the starters on IR come back from their injuries on time and in decent shape, the roster will be pretty solid for most *roles* (regardless of position), although run-stopping interior roles might still be a little understaffed (and getting old). That said, any *position* can be upgraded, as always. What positions get upgrades depends on what’s available talent-wise when BB picks, which is somewhat dependent on the depth of each position-class. And we probably won’t have a good read on that for another month or so. But, y’know, opportunities abound.

    • steve earle says:

      Good to hear from you again MaineMan and this is really interesting stats. I wonder though if the roll assigned to TE’s hasn’t evolved and broadened over the past few years? Not that long ago we seldom or ever saw a TE spread out or going in motion they were regulated to inline players swaping only left and right and catching short and med passes usually across the middle. Also this draft class is rich in TE’s much like the 13 class was in WR’s as you noted. But I do wonder if Gronk and Hernandez would have done half as well without Brady or Graham with Brees for instance. Some guys just end up in poor positions I think. I really have no idea how much these factors play into it but seeing how effective BB used the two TE system I wouldn’t be against reenforcing it.

      • MaineMan says:

        Thanks, Steve!

        WRT the role of TEs as receivers, yes, I think there’s been a *renewed* emphasis (or “anxiousness”), but it maybe dates back to the success of Tony Gonzalez from 1997 (#13 overall to KCY). Even before Gonzalez, drafting TEs in the 1st/2nd rounds wasn’t especially rare, though big “hits” were – Keith Jackson in ’86, Eric Green in ’90. Meanwhile, Brent Jones (’86) was a 5th-rounder, while Jackie Harris (4th) and Shannon Sharpe (7th) both came out of the 1990 class. Ben Coates was a 5th-rounder in 1991. In 1985, KCY double-dipped on Ethan Horton at #15 and Johnathan Hayes in the 2nd and neither of them did much while Bavaro (4th) and Novacek (6th) were much more successful. [Interesting tidbit: Ken Whisenhunt was drafted as a TE in '85 by ATL in the 12th round - 62/596, 5 TDS over 74 games. Meh.]

        Now, Gonzalez didn’t really explode until his 3rd season (1999), so the 2000 draft saw Bubba Franks and Anthony Becht go in the 1st. Then, the real “hits” started coming in 2001 with Heap (#31) and Crumpler (#35), then Shockey (#14) in 2002 (BB drafted Daniel Graham at #21, but Randy McMichael came out of the 4th), Dallas Clark (#24) in 2003 (Witten came out of the 3rd), Winslow (#6) and Watson (#32) in 2004 (Cooley was a 3rd-rounder), Heath Miller (#30) in 2005, Vernon Davis (#6) and Marcedes Lewis (#28) in 2006 (plus Fasano and Scheffler in the 2nd and Daniels in the 4th), Greg Olsen (#31) in 2007 (with Zach Miller (OAK) in the 2nd and Celek in the 5th)…. and so on.

        As to the “richness” of *this* TE class, I’m always skeptical until I’ve seen some all-star game practice week notes, and even more so now with this renewed “anxiousness” which has led the media to overhype prospects (it’s what they do).

        You’re absolutely correct that the success of Gronk, Ahern and Graham was greatly enhanced by their QBs (and coaches). Gronk is pretty exceptional regardless, but I’ve often thought that the Pats might have done just as well with Moeaki or Pitta as they did with Ahern.

        My pet theory about BB and the two-TE offense is that he may have begun toying with the idea back in 1977 when he worked with Charley Sanders and David Hill as the TE Coach for the Lions. From that point in his career until he became HC of the Browns in ’91, he was exclusively in special teams/defense coaching roles, though. Interestingly, he didn’t draft even one TE in his stint with the Browns thru 1995, though those five classess produced only four pretty good receiving TEs – Coates, Frank Wycheck, Tony McGee and Ken Dilger (plus a few honorable mentions). BB did acquire Bavaro and Pete Holohan for the 1992 season in Cleveland and always had 3-4 TEs on the roster. OTOH, he also had 3 pretty decent WRs most seasons – guys like Keenan McCardell, Andre Rison, Michael Jackson, Derrick Alexander – *AND* RBs who were very good out of the backfield like Byner, Hoard and Metcalf. IOW, he had a bunch of versatile targets – similar to the advantage that TEs can provide.

        And that goes to my point about BB now having re-built a broader WR corps (plus having Vereen) perhaps reducing the need to rush into an attempt to restore a dominant two-TE attack. BB, historically, works pretty well with what he has and what he can reasonably get. If he signs a guy like Olsen or Dickson in FA, maybe he just looks for a developmental prospect in a later round.

        • steve earle says:

          Agree, everything you say is true but to my point look at how little our TE’s have contributed since Gronk went down again. Taking a top TE early, one that can actually be at least a red zone threat, hopefully more, has to help our WR’s. Gronk is great but injury prone it must be admitted so taking that TE will cover the gaps when Gronk is out. If the two TE’s are both healthy and on the field together that’s gravy. Our o-line has been run blocking pretty well these last couple games and the 2 TE alighment makes that even better. Some think another WR is a better way to go. Maybe, but WR’s can’t effect the running game like the TE does or stay in to pass block as well. There are advantages and disadvantages to everything and yes we haven’t seen any all star games or the combine yet but until those happen and show the TE prospect(s) are just hype I’ll go with what we do know, or think we know. If Bill decides not to go TE that’s okay too but as of right now I’ll continue to think it’s a good idea.

      • Russell Easterbrooks says:

        The NFL is a copy-cat league, so the Idea of a two TE set, has I believe run its course. The Patriots had two quailty TE’s to make the two TE system work. I agree with “acm” that now is the time to start grooming another TE. This also goes back to my thoughts on grooming another QB, at this time. Talent on the draft board WHEN the Patriots pick, will play a big role in who gets selected. If BB can find a trade partner for the 1st pick he will trade for better value/future picks. Player’s on the Patriots roster, who maybe gone next year, Connolly, Talib, Gregory….. will also play a role in who gets drafted, for need.
        My Mock draft picks keep changing as players move on my draft board;
        1st – Zac Martin OG/T
        2nd – Arthur Lynch TE
        3d- Hakeem Smith S/CB
        4th- Aaron Murray QB
        6th- Zack Kerr DT
        6th- Brock Vereen S
        C 6th- Dontane Johnston CB
        7th- Will Clarke DE/T
        C7th- Mason Walters OG

        • steve earle says:

          Different line up this time Russell and I’m a bit puzzled you seem to be reaching for guys. Zac Martin I like but not so much as a 1st rd pick though yea someone else might. Besides the draft is pretty deep in O-line as you know. Lynch too seems a little high heck if were going to take a TE why not one of the top 3-4? Smith is my head scratcher. He’s projected as a 3rd day pick around 6th x draft scout. A far greater value seems to me to be Ahmad Dixon. He’s bigger, faster, covers well and a good run defender. We’ve been short a good SS for a few years now. Murray has good production but is this a guy who can pick up where Tom leaves off? If not why bother except as a body to replace Mallett after next year? We could get that from the FA leftovers. Everone below that are pretty close as far as values go. WE both like Spencer Long as a later pick, how come you’ve given up on him, have I missed something?

    • acm says:

      Maineman raised some good points and those are some interesting stats indeed. However:

      1) As Steve alluded to, the production at a given position is not a function of the individual abilities of a player but also of the system, the way in which said player is being used. You maineman seem to suggest that Gronk’s and AH’s productivity was the result of more or less pure luck in drafting freak athletes … I however think that productivity, to a very significant extent, is also the result of the putting those players in the right system.

      2) As you yourself pointed out, the TE involvement in the passing game right now is practically non-existent. A rookie TE like CJ Fiedorowicz (a 2nd round price-tag) for instance (who btw is very similar in athleticism and style of play to Gronk) would still be a big improvement even if he doesn’t top 500 yards in his rookie year – his presence would be especially needed until Gronk is ready to come back, which may take quite a few games into the 2014 season.

      3) Even in the not so likely event that Gronk actually finishes the 2014 season; even if his contract option is picked up by the Pats for the 2015 season and beyond, the Pats would still need to start grooming another difference maker at TE, considering Gronk’s now rather rich injury history. This grooming process would take a season one way or another, so it would be wise to start it as soon as possible. Otherwise they may end up facing the 2015 season without Gronk and a rookie having to shoulder the burden.

      • acm says:

        and
        4) let’s not forget the significance of a big target in the red zone, as well. moving the ball down the field is one thing but if there’s one thing that’s been the achilles heel of this O in the absence of Gronk it’s namely scoring TDs instead of settling for field goals.
        This may not make that big a diff on the yards stats for a rookie TE but could well make a big diff in the W column for the team … and as we see yet again this year, the diff between 1st seed and 4th seed in the postseason may well come to a single play even, not just a single game.

        • MaineMan says:

          Thanks, acm!

          You make some very good counter-points, here.

          1) There’s no question for me that, in 2010, BB and O’Brien built the passing scheme (post-draft) to exploit a unique opportunity by exaggerating the roles for the two TEs, with Welker and the other WRs and RBs playing complementary roles. I think this was where they were going during the summer of 2010 even with Moss still on the roster and it’s no surprise (in hindsight) that Moss would be very unhappy with a complementary role. The (roundabout) exchange of Moss from Branch was brilliant, since Branch had really always been a role-player in passing schemes with fairly broad target distribution. I also think, though, that the original plan would have used the RBs even more, similarly to what BB had done in Cleveland. Faulk and Morris, both good receivers, were also on the roster and Faulk was still healthy when Woodhead was acquired.

          WRT Gronk and Ahern being “pure luck”, I didn’t mean to suggest that at all. Gronk is a freak, though, if only because he was a dominant blocker *AND* a dominant receiver from the get-go. There was some luck involved there, too. Gronk was yet another talented/athletic 2nd-rounder who BB risked a pick on in spite of his previous injury history. Vollmer, Wheatley and Ras-I were some others – 2 of those worked out, 2 didn’t. OTOH, Ahern’s success was a product of the system to a much greater degree than Gronk’s and, as I said in my reply to Steve above, the Pats might have done just as well with Moeaki or Pitta.

          2) TE involvement is the passing attack is currently almost non-existent because, obviously, there are no real receiving TEs on the roster. However, a “Gronk-like” TE such as Fiedorowicz would only be necessary if BB’s intention is to try to duplicate/maintain the two-TE emphasis of the past three seasons, and I’m not at all convinced that it *IS* his intent. Even with Ballard, Fells, Hooman and Ahern (still) in hand, BB put a huge amount of effort into building a new, younger and *more complete* WR corps (especially looking at bigger X and Z types), perhaps beginning as early as Nov 2012 with the signing of Kamar Aiken, then continuing through FA and the draft. I mean, yes, it certainly needed doing regardless (and I don’t think he’s done yet). But, I also believe that BB’s approach to things is pretty flexible and that he recognized that the success of a passing attack built around two TE “stars” would be difficult to maintain over the long haul. I also think that his past success with pass-catching RBs (and FBs) may play a role in what’s coming next. He’s certainly looked at a lot of FBs the past couple seasons before settling with Develin (for the moment). But, in addition to Vereen, he’s also looked at Demps and a few others (now including McGuffie) are very fast and who’ve had decent receiving success.

          IOW, I suspect that, in 2014, TE receiving may recede back to a more complementary role in which Gronk may still be featured (when available) along with a second guy who can be a bit more productive than Hooman, but without nearly as much two-TE emphasis. If so, …

          3) Another aspect to consider is, while very good/elite receiving TEs have been fairly rare over the past 14 drafts (aside from 2010 and 2013 to some degree so far), the emphasis on TE receiving at both the pro and college levels has resulted in a greater number of *decent* receiving TEs being available through pretty much all rounds of the draft. It’s entirely possible that such a guy (from the 3rd or later) is all BB really needs for the near future. Such a guy, not being required as an “elite”/Gronk-level replacement and a year of development wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. Now, none of this is to argue that BB *WON’T* take Fiedorowicz if he believes in him and has a reasonable opportunity to do so. My argument is mostly that BB already has other directions in which to go and doesn’t need to bend over backwards to get such a guy, especially if it means missing out on significant talent at another position where it may count even more (DT, for example).

          4) No question that having a guy who’s 6’6″ with great hands who can run good routes, elevate and, being “strong like Hulk,” can win nearly every contested catch is a huge advantage (no pun intended). OTOH, a lot of the new receivers that BB has run through the roster over the past 13 months, and the ones he’s kept, have also been relatively tall, quick and strong – finally moving away from the Smurf Corps. Even Amendola, Edelman, Boyce, Moe and Collie are a couple inches taller than Welker and Branch.

          Evolution proceeds.

        • acm says:

          1) I think I may have expressed myself badly when I said “pure luck” earlier. What I was alluding to was that you seemed (at least it was how way I read it) to suggest that Gronk and AH were two once-in-a-generation players, who the Pats would hardly ever be able to find again. Which is why I made the argument that productivity was a function of two factors – individual player talent, athleticism etc and the system in which the player is being used …. suggesting that while Gronk and AH, while talented, were certainly not unique or irreplaceable. At the same time, however, I was also making the point that individual talent also plays a role i.e. you can’t just expect to draft any one or two TE in the late rounds and hope that the system would magically turn them into difference makers at the next level.

          Regrading the O as a whole, the two TE were drafted in 2010 to look for improved overall balance, imo. This balance is now again brought into question with the lack of a diff-maker at the TE position outside of a rather unreliable Gronk.
          In another post here, I mentioned how over the past 6-7 years (and more even) the O has lacked a perfect balance whether it was in regard to an underdeveloped run game or lack of a playmaker at TE or lack of a deep, outside threat in the WR core, etc, etc. Now, with Gronk spending most of his time. especially in the playoffs, on the sidelines, that balance is threatened again despite what looks like a promising WR core and quite a bit of talent in the RB position too.
          That’s why I made the argument that the team needs to draft a diff maker at TE (in terms of the passing game) and do so relatively highly (not necessarily in the 1st but not beyond the 2nd either). because again – productivity is a function of both individual talent but also of the system … meaning, Gronk and AH are not irreplaceable but also that doesn’t mean one can realistically wait till the 5-7 rounds and hope to find a play-maker at the TE i.e. talent also matters here. Obviously there is always the odd exception but one needs to play the percentages here.

          2) I think you are misreading BB’s actions in the past season or so in terms of his efforts in rebuilding the WR core or the run-game for that matter too. BB rebuilt the WR core because it needed to be done with Edelman being practically the only WR left after the exodus of WRs in the post-season. A lot of players were brought in also because many of those were eother low draft picks or UDFA and BB was again playing the %-ages there – considering the high bust-rate of WR at NE, and not exactly the abundance of sure-fire talent, one needs a lot of bodies/numbers to get 2-3 good WR from there.
          As I said, BB was practically forced to rebult the WR group and that was also part of having a balanced O … but part of the latter is also having a good TE core with a difference maker at the TE in the passing game.

          Furthermore, Lets not forget the circumstances in which rebuilding the WR core took place – the Pats fully expected Gronk to be back for the regular season and those expectations I am sure projected him to be there for the full season as well as the post-season. Also, AH was still on the roster, while a good TE like Ballard looked every bit likely to play a role in the TE role and either back-up Gronk or play a complimentary role. That is to say, just half a year ago the Pats looked better set at TE than any other team in the NFL. For one reason or another, be it due to Gronk’s now alarming proness to injury and AH’s off-field issues, to say that this is no longer the case would be an understatement, to say the least.
          Obviously something needs to be done and that’s not to maintain or recreate a two TE set but at this point to merely have a good TE in the passing game on the roster with all the uncertainties surrounding Gronk’s future with the Pats (injry and contract issues altogether). I don’t think they have to go all out on the TE position in the draft but a good player in the 2nd round could go along way in balancing the O at a very reasonable price.

          All in all, I think you are misreading all this by thinking that BB has given up on the TE role in the O just because he’s been busy rebuilding the WR group. One doesn’t preclude the other if you are looking to have a balanced O.

          3) I agree that one doesn’t need to go too high to find a good TE to fit the system and give good production while Gronk’s situation and future with the Pats is being clarified. E.G Graham was a 3rd round pick in 2010 iirc. However, every draft crop is different in what talent is available at a given position in a given draft year and also how many players with the talent to become diff-makers at the next level are available in said draft. The 2010 draft was particularly good in terms TE who were likely to be available outside of the top two rounds. This year, however, that’s not the case imo as I don’t think there is much talent outside of Ebron (likely out of the Pats’ reach), Amaro (might not even declare), ASJ and CJF all likely to be gone before the 2nd round is even over. There are several other interesting prospects but I don’t think it would be realistsic to expect them to become anything more that serviceable players at the NFL level, which is not what the Pats need considering Gronk’s situation.

          4) I honestly don’t think one can make a reasonable argument involving the current WR being an inch or two taller than the previous group as a justification to eliminate the need for a play-maker at the TE position (in the passing game). Sorry but that’s a really tough sell and I ain’t buying it :)
          I honestly don’t expect someone like CJF to be match Gronk in terms of production and have a 1200+ yards 15+ TD seasons but think there is good enough talent in this year’s 2nd round to get a reliable playmaker at the position with something like 700-800 yards 7-10 TD in this system on a relatively consistent basis beyond his rookie year.

        • steve earle says:

          I am in full agreement with acm in the TE debate with MaineMan and do feel he is misreading BB. Bill does whatever it takes to improve the team. Having a TE like Gronk improves the team, without him or someone like him the team is less effective. Given the choice between a one demensional TE whether a receiving type or an in-line blocker and a multi demensional TE who can do both I’d take the latter, it’s a no-brainer.

      • acm says:

        * the above should read “the production at a given position is not ONLY a function”

  8. J H TARBORO says:

    Unrelated: The Pats signed RB/WR Sam McGuffie to their practice squad, Remember last years UDFA list.
    I hope they like him enough to keep him into 2014. Check him out on youtube!!!

  9. J H TARBORO says:

    Hooman and Mulligan are Free Agents in 2014, along with picking up a TE in the draft.
    Notable 2014 TE free agents:
    Jimmy Graham- NO
    Garrett Graham- Hou
    Dallas Clark- Bal.
    Dennis Pitta- Bal.
    Greg Olsen- Car.
    Scott Chandler- Buf.
    Dustin Keller- Mia.
    Andrew Quarless- GB
    Brandon Pettigrew- Det.

    • Daniel R. Martin says:

      Thanks for taking the time needed to rearch this matter.

      It sure would be great if Jimmy Graham where to a. be interested in leaving N.O., and b. be able to escape without being placed under the franchise tag.

      I know Gronk was a second rounder and Hernandez a fourth. where any of the aforementioned TE’s selected either in the first round or drafted early in the second?

      I don’t watch college ball at all. Therefore, I don’t really know if Ebron, Amaro or ASJ have shown any promise of being as good as Graham, Gronk or A-Hern.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        Daniel R. Martin
        No problem, it’s my pleasure to share info, on this page we keep each other current.

      • acm says:

        it’s difficult to make such straightforward comparisons as where a player is drafted to a big extent depends also on the the system he was part of in college. Similarly, his performance at the pro level is also a function of the new environment/system he is immersed in. That’s a big part of why it is quite difficult to predict how a player would translate from the college game to the pros and make comparisons like the ones you are looking for.

        This being said, I think all of TEs you mentioned, including CJ Fiedorowitcz (he is the one closest to Gronk in terms of style of play, imo), have the individual talent to become dominant players in the NFL. Would be interested in seeing what ASJ could do with a proper QB throwing to him.

    • acm says:

      pretty interesting list. Unfortunately it’s tough to see any difference makers leave their current teams and if they do it would probably be because they are looking for big-time contracts.

      If the Pats have any chance to land a decent TE in free agency, of the above list, I’d say their best bet would be with Chandler or Pettigrew (less likely). The rest of those who deserve attention I expect to see stay put.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        acm I agree! but no double dipping in the draft. A vet for a vet.

        • acm says:

          drafting a TE is still the most likely way of finding a leader at the TE position for next year to replace Gronk while he is out and complement him in the unlikely scenario he actually finishes the season for a change.
          Chances are both Chandler and Pettigrew stay where they are or go elsewhere for money the Pats are unlikely to be willing/able to spend. I was just saying that those two represent more realistic options than the highly unlikely Graham, Pitta, Olsen etc.
          Obviously, in the highly unlikely run of events that the Pats actually pick up one of these guys, drafting a TE highly would no longer be a priority … key word, however is “unlikely”.

          I see Hooman stay with the Pats. Ideally for me they trade down from the 1st, pick up say CJF and then maybe get Millard late in the draft.
          Basically that would leave the Pats with CJF, Hooman, Devlin and Millard as options for the TE role till Gronk is finally ready to come back.

  10. alan says:

    this is a great thread. keep these articles coming and i’ll be active on these boards for sure

  11. kevan says:

    its likely the pats are looking at te. there not gonna take a wr especially early. amendola signed up, dobson, thompkins, boyce, m.harrison, tj moe. Edelman is on his last year but im banking on him to sign up with the pats again. at rb, ridely vereen and bolden are still there thats pretty good. blounte could be back as well. a back up qb could cost a pick, depending on what happens with mallet. but i see this as a 3rd rd pick at the highest. on the line r.wendall is a free agent. the pats could move conolly back to center put cannon at guard still have solder,mankins, and vollmer. which puts them in a position of just looking for depth. from the looks of it there half way there with josh kline and will svitek. so yea i say draft a te. i dont know about two early though, id like to see some defensive selections as well. i think the defense is on the cusp of being great (when not annialated with injuries) they just need like 2 pieces and its dynamite. i think ebron and suferian jenkins look the most impressive. hernandez clone or gronk clone pick. go pats

  12. Daniel R. Martin says:

    I’d like to see the Pats select either Ebron or Amaro in the 1st and then double dip into the TE pool in the second. Preferably for Seferian-Jenkins.

    Gronk’s inability to remain on the field at least contributed to the Patriots defeat in both the 2011 Superbowl and the 2012 AFC Conference title game. His latest injury will likely facilitate the Pats early exit in the postseason this year as well. I’m not attempting to be negative. I’m a huge believer in Gronk. He is simply the best TE playing today. That is, at least, when he is actually playing.

    Therefore, I feel as though the Patriots need to draft Hernandez’s replacement to compliment Gronk, and another TE to play in Gronk’s absence. Furthermore, I would really appreciate it if someone else on this board could explain to me whether or not a 3 TE set is feasaible in the NFL. The Pats revolutionized the 2 TE set, and I feel as though a 3 TE set could be even more effective, and effective for similar reasons. Three mismatch nightmares built for acquiring YAC working the middle of the field would be awesome.

    • Daniel R. Martin says:

      Also, consiering Gronk was graded as a 2nd rond talent and Hernandez only a 4th, I’m excited about what a 1st and 2nd round TE talent could develope into.

    • steve earle says:

      All that talent at TE could make us TE poor. We really do need other positions firmed up whether through the draft or free agents. For one I’d really like to see us get a top OC, Stork or Swanson, let Wendell go if he won’t take a team friendly discount. If another OT/OG slips to us fine but as you point out the line is basicly sound if not great. Another good CB is a must given the habit Talib has of getting injured and someone who can challange Arrington who gives up as many bad plays as good ones. SS is and has been a weak link for a long time and needs a fix now, so unless we get a few more picks we can’t get what we need if we grab 2 TE’s early.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        All very valid points. In reference to our need at safety, I was hoping we would have grabbed Bernard Pollard out of the bargain bin. He would have brought a hard hitting attitude and an intimidating presence that has been sorely missed. Too much bad history I suppose. But if we could find a solid edge rusher to bookend with Chandler Jones at DE, and a couple of heavy hitters in general, we would benefit greatly from that hyper aggressive, intimidating defensive collective identity.

        • steve earle says:

          Hi Don, Have to agree with your overall sentiment and I might suggest that the draft is only half the off season process. Free agency is coming around and some interesting talent will be on the market. TJ Ward SS Cleve and Jarius Byrd SS Buff are possabilitys for us. How much they might cost is ?. Another interesting player is Arthur Jones DT Balt. Signing one or two guys like this might strain the cap but would take some pressure off the draft. Taking a TE with a first then an OC, CB and possably a LB in that order would help. I put LB because that could allow Bill to move Hightower to DE ( his natural position imo) giving us about the strongest rotation of DE’s in the NFL. Though really that order is not carved in stone but hope you see what I mean.

        • Alex says:

          Steve, we have about $6m extra cap space this year, now Talib has hit his $0.5m Pro Bowl bonus, and are projected to have another $2m next year. That gives us $8m. Assume we can reduce Vince ($5m), Gostkowski ($1.5m) and Kelly’s ($0.5m) cap hit by extensions or deals, and we cut Connolly ($3m), Sopoaga ($2.75m), Gregory ($2.4m), Bequette ($450k) and Adrian Wilson ($1.2m). This generous prediction lands us with $24.8m of space.

          Lose $4m of that for draft picks, and reserve $2.8m for contingency space during the season, and that leaves us with $18m. We have Talib, Spikes, Wendell, Svitek, Edelman, Blount, Fletcher, Hooman, Aiken, Carter and Mulligan as FAs, we need to resign or replace.
          Let’s say we can keep Aiken, Hooman and Fletcher cheaply, for $3m. We replace Wendell with a draft pick, and Svitek with our younger depth guys on the O-line. Mulligan we replace with a draft pick, we keep Talib for lets say $7m cap hit this year, we let Carter, Spikes, Blount and Edelman go. We need to have an extra RB, but we figure we can find a UDFA for that purpose. That leaves us with $10m of space.

          We are though now short at safety (two vet losses) and DE (two losses), and have reduced depth at TE and on the Oline. We need another option at LB, and a vet option at WR to complement our now first year guys.

          We add a couple of cheap FA pieces to address some of those gaps for an extra $3m as BB is wont to do.

          That leaves us $7m and with key guys like McCourty, Solder and Chandler Jones that we will want to think about extending, and so no real room to pay Byrd as the highest paid safety in the league, or really any other position star.

          All this is a very generous estimation, and so I think we can safely rule out the Pats making any big FA splashes.

      • Alex says:

        Steve, I think you need to re-evaluate our secondary. You can’t be stocked with Pro-bowlers at every position, but which teams have a better secondary than us?
        Seattle, definitely. Maybe the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Titans. Who else?
        Who has a secondary as good as ours? It is most likely less than half the league.

        Harmon has looked like a guy who will be at least a solid starter, so we have a solid pair starting at safety. We probably need a mid to late round guy behind them for depth with Tavon Wilson, if we don’t keep Gregory and Adrian Wilson, but we don’t need more than that, much less a guy who can’t cover like Pollard.

        At CB Talib can challenge to be the best in the league, and if he stays no need to take a CB until late, unless the value is great. Even if he goes, Ryan and Dennard are both plus quality starters, and I’d favour taking a third round guy, as Belichick seems to do better with late round guys, rather than earlier guys with great measurables. Arrington isn’t going anywhere with his new contract, and is really pretty solid in the slot.

        We most certainly could do with reinforcing the interior Offensive and Defensive lines though.

        Assuming Talib stays, I’d go something like this DT 1or 2, TE 1-3, OC 2-4, OG 3-7, LB 3-7, CB 4-7, TE 4-7, S 5-7.

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          Alex, I think losing either Edleman or Blount would be very bad decisions. If we are looking for cap space, I would love to find a way for us to unload “Glass-Man-Dola” without suffering the cap hit. Having Edleman and Amendola can be considered somewhat redundant now that Edleman has proven he can stay healthy. Why release him considering he is every bit as productive as Amendola when Danny is actually on the field, which is half the time, and he cost about 10% of Amendola’s price tag. Edleman is also the record holder for highest punt return average in league history. So, he is more versatile. I know Edleman will cost more now. But he will still be far cheaper than “On-the-mend-ola.”

          Blount is another bargain bin player who was very productive for us this year. He also adds a smash mouth style that is elsewhere missing on the roster.

          I hope that you are correct in asserting that the Pat’s secondary is now one of the better ones in the league. I’ve only been watching football for about six years. But, if memory serves, wasn’t the Pats secondary the worst or second worst as recently as two seasons ago?

          I think the Patriots should look at someone like Dri Archer in the fourth or fifth round. I believe he is approaching sub 4.3 speed and had 2500 all purpose yards in one season for Kent State.

          I want to see some additional pass rushing talent and a tough, smash mouth attitude on defense. I thought Adrian Wilson would have addressed that matter in the secondary.

          On offense, I would like to see the addition of two big talents at the TE position. ASJ in the second and either CJF in the 3rd or 4th and Colt Lyerla in the 7th. I would also like to see a legitimate speedster out of the backfield, such as Seastrunk or the pass catching RB Archer. Archer can be had in the 4th. Ridley’s fumble issues and lack of pass catching make him expendable because of the presence of Ridley. Blount can more than match the level of physicality Ridley brings. Personally, I’d like to see a rotation of Ridley, Blount, and either Seastrunk or Archer at RB, with Bolden for depth. They all bring something different to the table.

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          *** Presence of Vereen.

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          **** I’d like to see a rotation of VEREEN, Blount and either Seastrunk or Dri Archer.

        • steve earle says:

          Alex, really good breakdown of our cap numbers above, thanks, a lot more room then I expected, thats encouraging.

          About our DB’s though, we’re fine at CB if we could stay healthy but that hasn’t been the case. I know Ryan is showing signs he may become a good one but so did McCourty his Rooky year. As for Arrington I feel he is just to limited. I’m not asking for them all to be All-pro’s but lets face it currently they give up far to much yardage and easy 1st downs. Safety is the weakest segment of our DB’s, McCourty being the only reliable player back there. We could and should fix that asap because that is a critical element of the def.

          Your assessment of how to allocate draft picks is very reasonable though I still think I’d like a CB and SS by mid rounds, always depending on value or events in free agency of course.

        • Alex says:

          Dan, I’d like to keep Blount and Edelman, but I feel like they’d have to take team friendly deals to stay. Edelman might do that to stay with Tom, but neither of them have ever had more than a UDFA/min type deal, so this is their one shot to be paid.

          No way to get rid of Amendola unless they cut him, which would cost more than keeping him. Also he has been mainly unlucky with injuries, as they’ve been unrelated. Similar with Edelman before this year. Both of them have shown signs this season of making smart decisions to better protect their bodies too, like Wes used to do. Either way, we probably can’t afford to pay Edelman more than an Arrington type deal of $4m per. We have Boyce, Moe and McGuffie for camp to compete for the second slot role as well, so the need isn’t high with Edelman, as much as I love him as a player.

          I wouldn’t say our secondary was one of the best, as much as it would be in the second tier of good secondaries. With only a few teams with clearly better ones, and with ours being clearly better than over half of the NFL. With that in mind, improving the front seven would make them effectively better, with a better rush and coverage of TEs/RBs. Hence I’d like a stud DT in the first if one’s available. It has been a remarkable turnaround since two years ago. McCourty at Safety and Talib at CB1, with the additions of Dennard and Ryan have made for a quality unit.

          In an ideal world, your whole team would be made up of Pro Bowlers, but you can’t do things like that. So you need to identify how to build your team so as to get the best overall result for the resources (cap space and draft choices) you have. I’d argue that DT is the most talent lacking spot on our D, and the D line is the most important position on D. So adding a stud there would do the most to improve the D. Then a mid to late round coverage LB and SS, to add versatility and depth to both units, then a late round developmental CB as a replacement for Marquice Cole. Then on O we need another starting calibre TE and more depth there and an upgrade at Guard and Centre. Some of this may come from developmental guys on our roster already, but most will need to come from the draft.

          As for RB, Ridley is a quality runner, with a fumbling problem, comparable to many guys in the league, and throughout league history. He has the right attitude to it, and is working on it. Far to soon to give up on him, especially while he is still cheap. We have too many bigger needs than RB, to select one except as a value shot late. Pick up a couple UDFAs and go from there.

          Steve, the cap is a lot better than the numbers might suggest, especially if we can get a good extension deal with Vince, and even allows us to keep Gregory, who has been solid if not quality this year. I get the Arrington dislike, but his contract means he isn’t going, and the coaches clearly feel otherwise. If you want us to take mid round SS and CB, then what positions will you take them instead of. My desire list would run like this: 1: DT, 2: TE, 3: OC, 4: OG, 5: LB, 6:SS/FS, 7: CB. And we need more than one TE, with only Gronk and DJ Williams under contract there for next year. So while some more depth in the secondary would be good, I can’t see either position as much more than a distant 4th priority.
          Alex, really good breakdown of our cap numbers above, thanks, a lot more room then I expected, that’s encouraging.

          As for Ryan, you can’t evaluate a roster, by assuming guys who have been playing very well might suddenly stop. With that type of evaluation, every position becomes a need. With McCourty it was mainly our cavernous safety weakness that year, that gave our CBs no support. Dennard was great last year, and still is. Ryan may have a tough second season, but then so might anyone. No need to reinforce a strength when we have numerous other weaknesses, unless the value is to good to pass up.

          As for safety. McCourty is one of the best five in the league, and Gregory has been a solid starter. Harmon has been very encouraging, and should be favourite to start next year. With the Wilson’s behind them, we have depth and talent. Now if we lose some pieces maybe we need another, but if not, it is either an early pick for a instant starter (but we have bigger needs) or it is a late developmental guy. A mid round guy doesn’t really make a difference to what we have.

          As for health concerns, yes they have some, but so does our whole roster, and basically the NFL as a whole. It is a solid group that has played at a high level even while dealing with injuries, and I think that is enough to only supplement with late picks, UDFAs and cheap FAs, while trying to upgrade our lines and TEs.

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          Response to 12/28 9:51 PM Post:

          Hey Alex, thanks for taking the time to respond to my latest posting. I am enjoying the discourse on this page very much. I am very impressed by the politeness and overall football knowledge / intelligence of the fan base on this chat board.

          Please understand that I have only been watching football for about six years. The reason being I was born, raised and currently reside in Atlanta, and watching the Falcons be the laughing stock of the league for decades never seemed like a great deal of fun to me. However, I am a tremendous Patriots fan, and a fan of the Falcons to a lesser extent. I perform a Google news search of the Patriots at least ten times a day. I strive to be an informed fan of the team and knowledgeable of the sport in general. I’ve said all of that to convey that I realize that I’ve offered a lot of opinions on this board, and many of them have likely demonstrated my burgeoning knowledge of the sport. I just don’t want to come across as a “know-it-all,” and I want to express my appreciation for the manner in which my fellow citizenry of the Patriot Nation have received and responded to my opinions.

          I understand the importance of having a solid defense. It certainly isn’t lost on me that TB12 won 3 Lombardi trophies in his first four years at the helm of a mediocre offense, supported by a powerhouse defense. I also recognize that the patriots have consistently had arguably the most prolific offense in the league for the past six plus years, and have failed to win a 4th title on the back of fielding an anemic defense. I appreciate the fact that the Pats have demonstrated an improved defense this year, especially given consideration to the rash of defensive injuries. However, I believe this to be the worst performing offense since Matt Cassel was at the helm. I believe it would be disastrous to not restore our offensive weaponry this season because if the unit is neglected it will be difficult to regain the previous held level of dominance.

          Speaking specifically to the defensive front seven, please help me better understand your assertion that the single greatest need of our team is the defensive line. I am certainly not attempting to negate that assertion. I just wish to better understand it. To my understanding, we have the best nose guard in the league, at least at run stopping. Behind him, we have Tommy Kelly and Isaac Sopoaga. I believe Kelly to be an asset, though I suppose Sopoaga has been unproductive, considering his lack of playing time. I think Armond Armstead can be excellent on the line. I do not understand why he never debuted this season. On the end of the line we have Chandler Jones, who was a leading rusher in the league this year I believe. Vellano and Jones performed admirably in the absence of Kelly and Wilfork, or so I’m told.

          I really expected Jake Bequette to emerge as a solid edge rushing weapon. He averaged something like a sack a game while playing in the SEC. It doesn’t seem like he was given much game time experience to assist his development.

          I have a sneaking suspicion that Jamie Collins is taking the beginning steps of becoming a significant impact player in our front seven, though I see that impact more as a linebacker in coverage than a defensive lineman rusher.

          Concerning our RB discussion, did Blount’s 334 all-purpose yard performance today affect your opinion about Ridley? I don’t necessarily see why it would, primarily because I accept your position that he provides a quality back at a cheap cost while he “labors” under his rookie contract. I suppose my position concerning the matter is as follows: Vereen can run with the same speed and physicality as Ridley, with the added value of being a competent pass catching weapon out of the backfield, and without the liability of consistently fumbling at seemingly the most inopportune times. Blount cost little as he isn’t considered a premier feature back. But, he is a rare breed of Running back that is fast, elusive and powerfully punishing. He adds an element of physicality that Ridley can’t replicate, and that is sorely lacking elsewhere on the roster. Finally, I personally believe that a significant step to regaining our status as the league’s premiere offensive power house would be the addition of a legitimate speedster. Perhaps expending a 2nd round pick on Seastrunk can’t be justified. But Dri archer, who has legitimate 4.25 speed and once garnered 2500 all-purpose yards in a single season, can be had in the 4th or 5th rounds. Now, that screams value, even if it doesn’t satisfy an immediate need.

          Concerning Amendola / Edelman, even forgiving the rash of injuries that have hallmarked Amendola’s career, he cost about ten times what Edelman presently does. And it wasn’t lost on me watching the past few games and seeing Edelman run up and down the field while Amendola was relegated to the sideline.

          Lastly, will you please assist me in my first attempt at a mock draft? I’m going to post it on this board later, possibly tonight. It will be my first attempt a completing a mock, and I sorely could use some help. I would value your insight, as I would anyone else kind enough to assist me. I have to warn you, I don’t watch any college football. I recognize that you won’t necessarily agree with all of my ideas. I’ll give the rough outline and wait any assistance.

          Thanks again,

          Daniel R. Martin

        • Alex says:

          Daniel, sorry for the delay. It is pretty hard to find new comments on this site, maybe they could consider using Disqus? It would sure help track these longer conversations better. That said, I agree with you Dan that this is a great site, with both knowledgeable and insightful posters and commentariat. I’m glad you’re enjoying it, and the discourse here is in good spirit. I’ve only seriously been watching football for four years, as I live in the UK, so I too hope I don’t come off as overly confident and a know it all, and want to understand the game better.

          As for what I think of needs, I’d like to split needs into two categories. The need for difference makers, and the need for depth.

          So I’d say our three biggest needs our TE, interior O-line and DT, in no particular order. But they are all slightly different needs. We need a starter and depth at TE, a quality player with upside at OC or OG and a stud at DT.

          TE is I hope obvious. With expiring contracts we will be down to just an injured Gronk at the TE position, and such this is the biggest need position in terms of depth, especially considering Gronk’s injury history. Including that injury history, and how productive we were in 2 TE sets, it is also a big need for a difference maker.

          O-line is also fairly obvious. We’ve had unusually poor play in the middle. Wendell has regressed, and is a FA, and Connolly has always been average. Mankins is also getting up in age, and will be a potential cap cut/negotiation going into the 2015 off season. We also have a lot of young guys on the roster, and the best O-line coach in the business, so some of those options may already be in house. Still a second or third round pick there, would help the talent levels.

          At DT we have great depth, but quality is up in the air. Wilfork and Kelly are both guys with All-Pro seasons on their resumes, but are also both old and coming of season ending injuries. In the case of Wilfork, he also wasn’t his usual dominant self before the injury this year (may have had another lingering injury) and he has a huge cap hit this year, and we’ll save $8m by cutting him, so unless he restructures or extends his deal (which will be tough given his age and injury), he’ll probably be cut. Either way, we have no idea what level of play Wilfork and Kelly can provide going forward, and due to age, we need to be planning to replace them in the not too distant future. Soap was a 6 month rental, who has been beaten out by the better Siliga, and will be cut next year.
          Then Armstead has never played, but we can consider him like a 2nd round pick. That leaves us the newbies. And while they all have done a job this year, none of them will likely be ever getting a Pro Bowl invite. Siliga is the best of the bunch, and can be an OK starter, or quality rotational guy. Chris Jones is an effort guy, who’s sack numbers are deceiving. He has few pressures and QB hits outside of those sacks, and the sacks have often come due to over players pressure, or excellent coverage. He is a good back up, and Vellano is a passable backup.
          So outside of Armstead’s development, we have no real shot at a young difference maker at DT. A guy like Hageman, Nix or Tuitt, could play significant snaps from day one, and have a good shot at developing into a dominant player.

          Then if you look at the broader picture on defense. If we can keep Talib, and I think we will, then we have a good secondary, which could maybe do with a developmental replacement for Cole at CB, and an athletic cover guy at Safety, but that can roll out 5 starter calibre guys, with quality backups. Our LB corps is young and made up of high draft picks, a top 10, a first, and two second round picks, and so we can’t really afford to keep pumping in draft capital there. A mid to later round pick for depth would be good. Ideally a versatile and athletic cover guy, to provide depth, and help with coverage of TE and RBs, as well as the intermediate zones. That leaves the front, with an ascending talent in Chandler Jones on one end, and the underrated Nink on the other. Then a guy in Buchanan, who has Chandler like upside, we are decent on the edges. We could do with some late round depth, as Bequette will be cut after showing nothing in two years. In the middle though, we are deep, but pedestrian, and adding a dominant player there, could really elevate our defense into top 5 status.

          Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, we have a young WR corps, that have kept improving, and should be markedly better next year. Add to that hopefully a smart vet FA addition, and things should be looking good. TE and the O-line are the biggest needs, as we have depth at RB and WR. The improvement by the guys on the roster, and more options at TE, should be enough to improve the O. The same O that was 7th in yards and third in points this year.
          To more specifically address your points. I too would be keen on adding either Dri Archer or D’Anthony Thomas in the 4th round or later, and see what McDaniels could scheme up for them for a few plays a game. I’d agree that is value, although a healthy Boyce could offer some of those things too.

          As for RB, I’d love to keep Blount at the right price, but I really feel his improvement (lower pad level) under BB this year will lead him to be highly in demand. I expect the Giants will be very interested, and that teams will see him as a lead rusher in the league. How much will he cost? It’s hard to say, but BJGE got $3m per, so I think Blount could expect to get $5m per. Will we offer him $4m per to stay, maybe, but unlikely much more. Given this will be his first, and possibly only chance to get paid, I expect he takes the best offer he can find, unless they are close.

          Ridley hasn’t got a worse fumbling problem than many other backs have had at times in their career, if he works to improve on it he can get back to being a top RB in the league. Vereen has nothing like his physicality, but Ridley and Blount are similar. The Ravens game comes to mind, with both of them ploughing through multiple tacklers to earn first downs. We should definitely keep him, and try and keep Blount, but either way, wait for UDFA to bring in other backs.

          Amendola hasn’t been worth five times Edelman this year, but Edelman will sign for the same contract or more than Danny this offseason. Given our depth at the position, Amendola, Boyce, Collie, Moe and McGuffie, I can’t see us paying him as much as he’ll get offered from elsewhere. So as another UDFA, with previous injury concerns, it will be tough to not take the biggest cheque he can get. That said he may stay, and we may offer him in the $5m per range, as his value is increased by his PR skills. Especially since we can get out from the Amendola contract at the end of next year, if he still doesn’t produce.

          Given his poor last two years, I’d like to make a run at a one year prove it deal for Hakeem Nicks, as a vet option on the outside. Also a fourth round or later tall WR would be an interesting pick if the value was right, otherwise a TE in the first three rounds, and then a double dip in the 6th or 7th, along with reinforcing the trenches seems the way to go.

          I’ll comment on your mock up the page, but here are two options at a no trades or comp picks draft from me, in the mean time.

          1) Stephon Tuitt DT or Austin Seferian-Jenkins
          2) Travis Swanson OC or Anthony Johnson DT
          3) Boseko Lokombo OLB or La’el Collins OG/OT
          4) Arthur Lynch TE or Telvin Smith OLB
          6) Andre Hal CB or Tre Boston S
          6) Spencer Long OG or Marcus Martin OC
          7) Colt Lyerla TE/HB or Trey Millard FB/HB

    • acm says:

      two TEs with high picks would be unnecessary, imo and even counterproductive considering there are other areas to reinforce, as well. Furthermore, Ebron is highly unlikely to fall to the Pats in the 1st and the same goes for ASJ falling to late 2nd … tbh, I doubt even CJF falls there.
      A TE in the 1st to mid 2nd (in case of a trade) and another one in the late rounds (say layerla in the 7th) and an UDFA would be perfectly fine to strengthen the position, imo.

      As for an OC, I don’t think the Pats have to go too high for a guy like Swenson. I think very good talent would be available there in 3-4 rounds too (Stork, Ikard and my preferred Tyler Larsen).

      Would have to wait and see how free agency goes to better gauge the team’s most urgent needs.

    • acm says:

      As for an AH replacement to complement Gronk, I would keep my eye on DJ Williams for that role. So getting one of Amaro, ASJ or CJF with an early pick should just about do for the 2014 draft, I think.

      • Alex says:

        I wouldn’t invest too much hope in DJ Williams. He failed in Green Bay, and they have a real shortage of TE options, after their oft injured lead guy. Then got cut by the Jaguars, possibly the least talented team in the league.

        He could develop, but it’s a real long shot.

    • Alex says:

      Just never going to happen.
      We have plenty of other needs, and all three of the top TEs may be gone before we pick first, let alone second.

      We can get value with a TE late, and complement that with one early. But we also need a talented DT, and interior Offensive lineman, to improve in the trenches.

  13. dslave says:

    I’m of the opinion that the dynamic te duo; will be dead by seasons end. You cant look to replace Hernandez or Gronk. What they will do is add TE’s to their roster by maybe a third round pick or down to the 7th. they have WAY too many depth issues on the DL an OL not to address before the top 3 TE’S are gone. If they trade Mallet, that could change their thinking by acquiring more picks. Arthur LYNCH and Marcel Jensen are two prospects worthy in the 3rd thru 5th.

    • steve earle says:

      Yea the TE situation is tough right now I agree. Your point of trading Mallett is possable but in a QB rich draft coming up it’s questionable what we would get for him imo. I tend to lean rather strongly toward a trade down of the first for the extra picks. AJS or Feidorowicz could be around early/mid 2nd. I’d suggest a later TE pick (4-6th) could be Jacob Pederson TE Wis. 6-4 #240 and described as a good blocker in a run heavy offense. He has 4.65 speed and good hands though not given many that chances at Wis.

  14. Kevin says:

    Would live to take cj on the second day Harrison can play the joker role but we need someone to help block since our rookie wideouts will make the jump next year

  15. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    I think all of the TE’s in the article are very good prospects, but only Fiedorowicz has a good chance to fit the Patriot system. I like Arthur Lynch as the best fit in the Patriots system. He is the best blocking TE in the draft, (IMO) and has good hands and runs good patterns, but was under used in the Georgia passing game. Lynch is a smart player, (3d round pick?) and reminds me of Dallas’s Jason Whitten. Another interesting prospect is TE Evan Wilson 6’6″255lbs. a 6th-7th pick.
    I think the Patriots want thier Offense, to run the ball more in the future. I can see them drafting a RB, and looking at the TE position differantly in the future. I don’t see the Two TE set they used the past few years, as a major part of their offense. The Patriots had two TE’s that made that system work, but looking for TE’s to make it work again, I think is going in the wrong direction.
    The Patriots may look for more of a FB type TE guy out of the back field, Jacob Patterson 6’4″ 240, or Rob Branchflower 6’4″ 250. There again with the running game in mind, a good blocker WITH good hands in the passing game. Just my thoughts.

    • acm says:

      I can see your point Russ but I can’t agree with it. The problem with the O of previous years was always the lack of balance and the over-relying on 1-2 players from a particular part of the O, while the other pieces remained under-utilized or downright non-existent – first it was relying on the Wr core in the form of Moss and Welker, while leaving out the running tame and the TE role. Then it was overdoing it on the inside with Welker in the slot and TEs, while lacking threat on the outside on top of an under-developed running game.
      I don’t think what you are suggesting would be any different as it would again focus one one or two aspects of the O while leaving the other two lacking … all this leading to the same end result and namely lack of balance i.e. being predictable and easy to stop by the good Ds likely to face come play-off time.

      I agree that chasing the TE duo of the past could be a treacherous path to follow but I don’t think drafting a TE early falls in that category – there is no more a TE duo to begin with and the only viable option at TE they have is an injury prone player whose price to the Pats will only increase from 2015.
      All the good Os out there have a leader/diff-maker at the TE position on top of a couple of other serviceable TEs on the roster. The Pats are however facing a situation where not only will they not have a TE duo to speak of but no #1 TE to begin with for most of the 2014 season (very likely) and possibly beyond.

      All those late round names you mention are great options for prospects at the position but they are more likely to be the next Sudfeld than the new Gronk, tbh. They could afford to get several of those guys (including as UDFA) and see what shakes out of there but that’s hardly the basket one would want to put all their eggs in in hope of finding a new difference-maker at the TE position considering the only such player on the roster right now is more often than not injured and likely to miss a good part of 2014 and may not even be around for 2015.

      Don’t get me wrong, I like the Lynches and the Branchflowers and the Pedersens of the draft but if you play the percentages here, the best one should realistically expect to get out pf those guys are serviceable players at the next level and hardly more than what the Pats already have in Hoomanwanui, Develin and possibly even Dj Williams.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        ^THIS!!!X10

        Daft two tight ends in the 1st and 2nd, sign a legitimate Deep Threat wideout in free agency, attempt trading Amendola (Edelman can do the exact same thing for a fraction of the cost. Only he can actually stay healthy.) and look for O-Line depth, possibly in the later rounds of the draft. I’m convinced Coach Scarnnechia can make contributing players out of most any decent talent. Voila. Offense is shored up and ready to consistently put up 35+ PPG again.

        Defense is a whole ‘nother bag of issues. Maybe look for one more legitimate edge rushing DE to bookend the line with Chandler Jones.

        • alan says:

          I like your strategy daniel but i just dont think the pats would do that. i think drafting tight ends both in the 1st round or 2nd most likely wont happen and imo would not be a good allocation of draft picks. i would be happy with a te at 1st or 2nd but not both. asj has the best shot to drop to us and if he falls in our lap but i still dont think the pats will take him unfortunately, even though he is my favorite player in this entire draft. if they do end up getting any of the big 4, i would love a te in 4-7 or even an undrafted rookie a la colt lyerla.

          give the young wr’s another year to develop, i like what i see out of boyce when he is healthy and also dobson. dont need to go out and get a deep threat talent when we spent a fairly high draft pick on dobson last year.

    • Alex says:

      Hi Russ. Interesting points. While I think the Pats would like to further develop their running game, I can’t see them take a RB in the draft except late. They have a good one in Ridley, that is working on his fumbling problem, that really is comparable to lots of other backs around the league and through history. They have Bolden who’s a solid back up, and the chance to resign Blount, as well as Vereen as the pass catching back.

      If they want to invest in the running game, then they’ll go after a Centre and a Guard to upgrade the line, as well as a TE.

      Blocking TEs are always available late, so you only want to take them early if they can be a weapon in the pass game too. I haven’t seen enough of Lynch to know whether I think he can do that, but I do think ASJ can. Why don’t you think he’s a system fit?

  16. steve earle says:

    I wouldn’t complain if Bill took any one of these TE’s and I’m not concerned at all if they might have like skill sets or not. Bill would find the way to use them to our advantage. ASJ and Gronk, as has been noted before, would create nightmares for DC’s. Same also for Gronk and Ebron or, heck any of them even the FB Millard if employed in that roll. Sure would be fun to watch.

    I am worried about Gronk’s knee though. Hope he comes back100%. Problem is he may miss some games again and then there is the question can he finish a season? That lingering question may point to one of the bigger TE’s like ASJ or Fiedorowicz. That’s just a guess on my part though.

  17. Justin says:

    The Pats certainly are need of help at TE. I’d love to see them select one of those four players. But if not, here are some other tight ends to consider: Arthur Lynch, Joe Don Duncan, and Crockett Gillmore.
    Also, Colt Lyerla is probably going to go undrafted because of his off-field issues and quitting the Oregon Ducks’ football team, but that guy is wicked talented. If he proves to have gotten his act together and is rededicated to the game, I’d like to see him in a Pats uniform.

    • steve earle says:

      Agree he’s talented but how does he prove if his act is together without playing and being part of a team? Taking a chance on him with a 7th can be justified as low risk high reward. If BB takes that risk it’s okay with me but I’ll wait and see.

  18. J H TARBORO says:

    I was the first to suggest Kyle CJ Fiedorowicz 6’7″ 260 Iowa on your last TE list. The 3 TEs in front of him are a liittle more athletic but if you watch his tape he’s a better blocker than the other 3 TEs. He’s coached by Ferentz in Iowa, a Belichick buddy and former Cleveland 95 coach with Belichick. this kid would make sense. FIiedorowicz would be a good role player for the Pats but remember why Gronk and Hernandez was so successful, they had very different skill sets from each other. My suggestion, draft a TE but in the late rounds find a guy who could play the “Joker” or H back my suggestion would be FB/RB/H-back Trey Millard 6’2″256 Okla. He fater than Hernandez at 256lbs. he can catch really well, very durable and he likes to run defenders over, a late round gem.

    • ChevSS says:

      I can’t help but wonder if Mark Harrison couldn’t play that move TE role for AHern. Same 40 speed but faster 10 yd split than AHern and Harrison is longer (6’3″, 35″ arms) than Hernandez. I’d like Harrison to work on his hands since he dropped ez catches on occasion in college. His blocking is far better than AHern’s.

      • Justin says:

        I want to know the same thing. When they signed him the first thing I thought was that he’d fill that TE/WR/HB role Hernandez had. But, he wasn’t able to recover from that foot injury in time. Guess we’ll have to wait until offseason workouts begin to see what role he’ll have, if he’s still on the team by then.

      • steve earle says:

        As I recall early in camp reports were good on Harrison then the injury. I like his potential for next season.

        Points to JH, I do believe he was the first to notice Fiedorowicz, good one JH.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        ChevSS I hope Mark Harrison is retained for next year, he would be a good choice for a “Joker”role but with WR durability. Remember our earlier Pats squads with FBs (Kevin Turner, Sam Gash, and Patrick “Patti”Pass”) they were multi talented, catch out of backfield, great blockers that did it all. That’s why i’m suggesting Trey Millard he’s a true h- back that could do it all.

    • acm says:

      Actually, you were the second to do that :) . CJF is a very accomplished TE and would be more than just a role player for the Pats, imo. I agree that he is the least athletic of the 4 players discussed here but let’s be honest, Gronk isn’t exactly a Jimmy Graham himself. He may indeed have the lowest ceiling of the 4 but quite possibly offers the highest floor as well, at the lowest price.

      I like the idea of getting Millard late in the draft and have him as an option for the TE position too, besides HB (like V. Leach with the Ravens). It’s something I have been toying wth since he got injured and became likely he would drop quite a bit in the draft. Unlike you, however, I like Millard as a pick complimentary to another TE early in the draft. Why? Well, for several reasons:

      1) Because of how important the position is to the Pats O and Gronk’s now well documented inability to finish a season. If 3 seasons in a row (I count the SB in 2011) doesn’t constitute a pattern, I don’t know what does and this should be ringing bells and whistles in the heads of everybody at Foxboro by now.

      2) Gronk is likely to miss not only all of Training camp but quite a few games too – I personally think he starts the season on the PUP list and they don’t bring him back earlier than the week 9-10 of the 2014 season. Reason for that would be not just the injury itself but also that it happened to player that big and massive, which requires a different approach that say if we were talking a Wr or a CB here. And just as importantly, one must not neglect the psychological part of it – after so many back-to-back-to-back injury issues, they’d need to be extra careful with when and how they bring him back … not unlike the approach the took with him earlier in this season.

      3) There is a clause in Gronk’s contract that would represent a big financial risk for the Pats if they decide to pick it up (not sure when it is, I think they need to decide before the 2015 season), considering his injury history. I wouldn’t be shocked if the 2014 season is his last in a Pats uniform. Which means that a viable alternative must be groomed in house to take over the reigns or at the very least compliment Gronk is he stays in NE for the 2015th season and beyond.

      For all these reasons, I think it’s virtually imperative to take an accomplished TE early next year – personally, I think it comes down to one of Amaro (should he declare), ASJ and CJF as Ebron seems unlikely to fall to late 1st, at least at this point in time. Toying with ideas like getting Millard late is perfectly fine (and even desirable, imo) but they have to make sure they already have someone who can handle the burden of the TE role as it is in the Pats O before resorting to experiments – can’t let the 2014 season hinge on whether a college FB can play a TE at the pro level or not.

      One other thing regarding the “joker” TE role – I have my hopes high for this new guy they got for next year, DJ Williams. He was a very much a Hernandez clone in college and think they already may have something in him for that role. Will know more after he gets a full pre-season with them, I guess.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        ACM I appreciate your comments and see you have some understanding of were i was going with that statement.

      • Russell Easterbrooks says:

        I agree that Gronk will start next season on the PUP list as he did this year. However I doubt the Patriots draft a TE early, maybe 3d-4th. I think next years Patriots will make moves to improve thier running game. Drafting RB, OL, Blocking type TE, with more reps in the Passing game than Hooman. I projecting Arthur Lynch.

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          I think you may be correct only because BB seldom seems to do what we fans believe he should come draft day. However, I think a decision to not draft at least one TE in the first round would be a decision poorly made.

        • Alex says:

          Gronk didn’t start this year on the PUP Russell, he was carried on the roster. I would be surprised if the Patriots weren’t hoping to take a TE in the first three rounds, as it is a position of real need, with only Gronk and twice cut DJ Williams under contract for next year.

          Not sure how we’d take more than one TE in the first, unless you are a projecting a blockbuster trade Dan ;-) I’d agree with double dipping on TE/H Back in the draft, with one high, and one low.

          I’d like ASJ in the first or early second, or Fiedorowicz or Lynch in the third, and then Millard or Lyerla in the 6th or 7th.

          But I’d still like a DT first if Hageman, Nix or Tuitt are there for us.

  19. alan says:

    i also love that cj guy from iowa. reminds of a bigger and more agile heath miller. would be willing to take him in the 2-3 round

  20. alan says:

    and i really do think asj will be the best tight end of this class. he plays like graham but is a more complete blocker. graham in my opinion plays more like a wr than a te. he lines up in the slot and out wide but he doesnt line up like gronk on the line fighting through blocks. imagine a healthy tandem of gronk and asj runnning down the seam for us? with another year of development of dobson boyce and thompkins, we could easily be the same passing attack we’ve had in the years before this year. ASJ IS THE TRUTH

    • Daniel R. Martin says:

      Agreed. And in addition to ASJ and/or Amaro or Ebron, Lyerla could be worth a gamble considering he’d likely be drafted or signed out of the bargain bin. However, I doubt the Pats would consider such a move, which would garner media and public scrutiny, following the A-Hern nightmare, purely for PR reasons.

      • Alex says:

        PR worries would be a bad reason to not draft him.
        If they think he will work hard as a pro, then the talent is there, and he’d be a great 6th-7th round pick, in the mould of Dennard and Buchanan, real talent steals.

        Lots of NFL guys are not exactly going to thrive in a college environment, but with some added maturity, and the chance to get paid doing what they love they can thrive.

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          I certainly agree that making any roster decision based on PR is bad policy. However, also being a Falcons fan, I’ve witnessed Thomas Dimitroff flat out refuse to consider many talented draft propspects who had a lot less charchater concerns than cocaine possession charges and walking off of a team.

          I would be ecstatic if the Pats or Falcons would take a flyer on Lyerla. If there is any locker room in the league that can straighten a troubled youth out it has to be in Foxborough, Mass.

        • Alex says:

          PR concerns is different to character ones.
          PR is about how others see your team. And while it has some importance, one draft pick will do little to change that, especially when the issue is drugs, and not violence of any kind.

          Character concerns effect how you expect the prospect to work as a pro, and so are very important. If you don’t think they’ll fit in your locker room, or will work to excel, then you pass them up.

          Without speaking to the prospect and those who know them best, you haven’t a chance of knowing how they’ll project forward. Even then, it is guess work. With Lyerla, he has first round talent, but significant concerns, but seems like he should be worth a late round flyer. Lots of guys won’t thrive as unpaid stars at college, and will be better as a a Pro.

  21. alan says:

    i agree with you steve. there are a bunch of good prospects out there in the later rounds. colt lyerla, arthur lynch, clive walford, xavier grimble, and jacob pederson. in my opinion tight ends have to be a main focus of this draft. i understand interior d lineman are a pressing issue but next year we will have kelly, armstead and wilfork back. and alos chris jones has looked like a solid serviceable player along with vellano. for db’s i think we should be set if we resign talib and dennard doesnt get arrested again. logan ryan looks like a legit playmaker, not saying he is a shutdown corner, but more like a ceiling of a solid number 2 cb. TIGHT ENDS BOYS. such a crucial position in our offense, for the run game, the recieving game (blocking and reciieving) and decoys as you can see the effect gronk had on others when he was healthy. also gronk looks more and more like he will not return after next season due to the cap hit his contract will take. i love gronk but we can’t rely on him to be our go to guy even though he is the best player on the field for us when healthy (besides tb12 obviously).

    I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THEM DOUBLE DIP AT TIGHT END AS THEY DID IN 2010. get any of the big 3 in the first or second round (asj, ebron or amaro) and a late 5th or 6th or 7th on a guy like lyerla or lynch

    • Daniel R. Martin says:

      Those are my sentiments precisely. There sure seem to be a lot of knowledgable fans on this site.

  22. steve earle says:

    Another well done to Oliver for this breakdown of the top TE’s, thanks. Everyone there has done a great job with the top prospects at the verious positions. I wonder if there are any plans there to go deeper into the draft later on, say breakdown 3rd/5th round calaber players. If not may I suggest it? Lots of your readers would find this very interesting, I know I would. Thanks again for all your hard work.






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