NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
Part two of the Building the Big Board has had an interesting path to this point. I had Tight End as a much higher priority when I started putting together this post, then the Patriots made a series of moves that required a bit of a revision to the article and to the board. When I originally wrote this, I thought the team might actually look at double dipping at the position, now they may not draft a Tight End at all. If they do, however, here are the guys that I like for the Patriots from this draft class.
The Tight End position has become more complicated over the years. We don’t just have your traditional big guy who blocks but can also go out and make the occasional catch. Now teams implement several different types of players at the position. The Patriots are a team who like to run two Tight End sets because it seems they feel it creates ideal match ups with today’s smaller, faster defenses. Luckily for us fans, the team has the best Tight End in the game today and with the moves they have made this off season, they have an opportunity to have one of the best Tight End tandems in recent memory. Bennett and Harbor are on one year deals, so taking a Tight End is not completely out of the question, but the priority does become lower. Here are some options at the position that fit the Patriots scheme.
POSITION: Tight End
PRIORITY: Low to Medium/Low
Rob Gronkowski (age 26, signed through 2020)
Martellus Bennett (age 29, signed through 2016)
Clay Harbor (age 28, signed through 2016)
A.J. Derby (age 24, signed through 2018)
Mike Williams (age 25, signed through 2016)
Similar to the last couple of draft classes, this one is considered weak. I don’t feel there is any player at the position that warrants a first round pick and most of these players have glaring weakness, either on or off the field. With the additions the Patriots have made, they do not have to draft a Tight End, but if one of these players with upside happens to fall, they could draft him and allow him a year to develop. The signings of Bennett and Harbor give them that type of flexibility and might be the best route for these players in terms of long term success. Basically, I am trying to convince myself that the Patriots will still draft one of my favorite players in this draft.
Tight Ends/H-Backs with a draftable grade:
Tyler Higbee- Western Kentucky (6’6″, 249 Lbs.): If you have followed me at all, you know Higbee is one of my draft “binkies” and I am fully aware that I am higher on him than most. To me, he may be the only Tight End in this class that has a chance to be special. Where he differs for me than the other guys in this class is his explosion and his ability to get open in a variety of ways. He is aggressive in his route running and has the short area quickness and movement skills to create separation consistently, which no other Tight End in this class can do. The big knock with him on the field is his blocking. If you watch him, you will see that his technique does need work, but you will also see that he blocks with great effort and intensity. While his blocking is underdeveloped, I think over time, he will be considered a good blocker. Higbee is also coming off a knee injury and at his pro day he said he was at about 75 to 80 percent, which could knock him down some teams draft boards. To me, this just gives some lucky team to get a draft steal. (2nd round grade)
Jerell Adams-South Carolina (6’5″, 247 Lbs.): Adams is an athletic guy with good height and long arms. He has great straight line speed and could be a real weapon as a pass catcher going down the seam. He shows soft hands and the ability to go up and make contested catches. Much like Higbee, Adams blocking needs work, but the effort is there. Adams is a little stiff in an out of his routes and while he has long speed, he does not possess good short area quickness. Adams also needs to bulk up and add strength as defenders were able to knock him around in college and that will continue in the NFL. (3rd/4th round grade)
Austin Hooper-Stanford (6’4″, 254 Lbs.): The best way to describe Hooper is good at everything, great at nothing. He has good combination of size and movement skills. Hooper tracks the ball well and has reliable hands. He is one of the more effective blockers in this draft as well. Hooper lacks elite speed and change of direction to create space consistently and his role in the NFL might be as a complimentary piece. He is a younger player who still needs refinement in almost every phase of the game and does not have any elite traits that would warrant a higher pick. Hooper is a hard worker and will maximize him talent and should end up a solid piece on offense. (4th round grade)
Thomas Duarte-UCLA (6’2″, 231 Lbs.): Duarte is a guy I wrote up earlier this year. If you would like to read my report on him, please click on the link: http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2016/03/scouting-report-thomas-duarte-tewr.html (5th/6th round grade)
Devon Cajuste-Stanford (6’4″, 234 Lbs.): Despite being a Wide Receiver in college, I think a move to H-back might make the most sense for Cajuste. He is an aggressive route runner and uses his size to his advantage when creating separation. He tracks the ball well and catches everything that is thrown his way. He is good in traffic and fights to make the contested catch. Doesn’t have the speed to play WR but is good enough to play H-Back. Obviously moving from WR to TE will have its challenges, mainly learning how to be an effective blocker. (6th round grade)
Temmarick Hemmingway (6’5″, 244 Lbs.) A small school prospect with intriguing measureables and upside. He looks like a supersized Wide Reciever more than a Tight End and will be used that way in the NFL. He has a nice combination of size, speed and movement in and out of his cuts. Hemmingway will need to continue to add bulk to his frame. He has a lot of work to do to be considered even an adequate blocker. He is a project, but could develop into an offensive weapon over time. (6th/7th round grade)
Ben Braunecker- Harvard (6’3″, 250 Lbs.): Braunecker has a good combination of size and speed for the position. He is a smart player who shows good awareness to find soft spots in the zone. He is an above average route runner with soft hands and a large catch radius. He shows good quickness at the snap and good speed to create separation downfield. He comes from the Ivy league and needs to add strength to be able to handle the jump in physicality. (6th/7th round grade)
David Morgan-UT-San Antonio (6’4″, 262 Lbs.): Morgan has excellent size and bulk. He has reliable hands and was the go to guy on offense. He uses his size to block out defenders and giving his QB a large target. Morgan shows a good ability to make the tough catches in traffic and will deliver blows to smaller defenders. He may be the best in line blocker in this draft and could have a large role as a blocking Tight End at the next level. Morgan lacks speed and is stiff when running routes and may never have more than a bit role in the passing game. (7th round grade)
Interesting UDFA Prospects:
David Grinnage- North Carolina St. (6’5″, 248 Lbs.)
Beau Sandland-Montana State (6’4″, 253 Lbs.)
Tanner McEvoy-Wisconsin (6’6″, 231 Lbs.)
James Vander Laan- Ferris State (6’3″, 240 Lbs.) QB convert from small school.
*Note: Dan Vitale and Glenn Gronkowski could have been on this list, but I included in my HB/FB big board that will be coming out shortly.
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