Feeling the draft: Tight ends
|01.23.10 at 11:45 pm ET|
WEEI.com is the place to be for everything you need to know about the 2010 NFL Draft. We’re kicking off the draft coverage by going through the Patriots’ depth chart, position by position, and telling you which players the Pats could target come late April.
State of the position: Benjamin Watson (free agent), Chris Baker (4 years remaining).
One of three positions in this offense that badly needs tending to, the Patriots don’t have a true receiving option at tight end. Baker’s 14 catches in the ’09 season tied for his lowest total since his rookie year with the Jets, but he is still a very balanced tight end who contributes as a blocker and has enough potential with his hands to stick around. The David Thomas trade was utterly regrettable, as Thomas’ 35 catches as a backup were more than Watson or Baker had. Opinions on Watson range from that he has been a disappointment to that he just needs to be better utilized, but the fact of the matter is that he hasn’t produced like a first-rounder. Though he was seen as a reach in ’04, he has outperformed the currently out-of-football Ben Troupe, the tight end many ranked ahead of him. Still, with all the uncertainty that surrounds the receivers, the Patriots would be wise to seek an explosive tight end who can still contribute as a blocker. Unfortunately, they don’t appear to grow on trees in this year’s class.
Potential free agents of note: Bo Scaife (restricted), Owen Daniels (restricted), Tony Scheffler (restricted).
TIGHT ENDS IN THE DRAFT TO KEEP AN EYE ON:
Jermaine Gresham: Senior, Oklahoma, 6-foot-6, 261 pounds.
2009 stats: DNP (knee surgery).
What he brings: Speed, size, good hands.
Where the Patriots could get him: No. 22.
The Patriots need someone who can catch the ball, but Gresham is a very questionable fit. He will still be a first-round pick despite not playing in his final season, but consider that the Patriots gave up on Thomas because he was too one-dimensional. Gresham is big but his blocking skills are nothing more than adequate. You can’t argue with his production until his injury—25 touchdown catches in his sophomore and junior years combined— but the fact that he is limping (not quite literally, as he has been running and should work out pre-draft) into the NFL has to make those numbers a little less persuasive. Though this draft features a fairly weak crop of tight ends, risking such an important pick on somebody with such recent injury concerns might not be the smartest choice for the Patriots. Gresham likely will be a home run for whichever team picks him, but it would be safer for the Patriots to go a different route on Day 1 of 3.
Rob Gronkowski: Junior, Arizona, 6-foot-6, 265 pounds.
2009 stats: DNP (back surgery).
What he brings: Total package.
Where the Patriots could get him: Round 4 (though he could go much sooner, see below).
Players declare early all the time, often when they won’t be first round picks (see: Gerhart; Toby—I take it back, he at least got his degree. See: Marks; Sen’Derricks) and it’s no big deal. Devin Hester did it in 2006 because his family needed the money, a very respectable move, and was a second-round pick. Gronkowski, however, finds himself in a different group. A big junior year could have given him a second or even first-round grade, but after missing the season with a strained back (and eventually surgery), the former third-team All-American thought it wise to head for the NFL rather than trying to prove his health first. The reason? Because he wanted to be in the same league as his brother, Lions tight end Dan Gronkowski, as soon as possible. What makes Gronkowski so difficult to project in the draft is the fact that he truly does have an amazing skill set—he can block, catch, and run routes with the best of them. However, coming off of back surgery one would have to assume that scouts wouldn’t invest a high pick in whatever chance there is that he can be the same player and adjust to the pros. A ton is riding on his workouts, so consider Gronkowski one of the bigger risk/reward players in this draft.
Dennis Pitta: Senior, BYU, 6-foot-5, 248 pounds.
2009 stats: 62 catches, 829 yards, 8 TD.
What he brings: Athleticism, hands.
Where the Patriots could get him: Round 4.
Pitta will be remembered as one of the greatest college tight ends of all time, but he will need to improve his blocking skills and bulk up if he wants to be an even serviceable NFL tight end. While he brings everything the Patriots are looking for from a pass-catching standpoint, he absolutely screams David Thomas 2.0, only slightly taller and a slightly better blocker. Clearly, there is still hope for Thomas to be a very good NFL tight end, but the Patriots obviously weren’t satisfied if they were willing to trade their 2006 third-round selection away for just a seventh-round pick. If there is any tight end that can bring everything— much like they had hoped Watson would— it is Gronkowski, so look for the Patriots to stay away from nearly strictly-pass-catching tight ends such as Pitta. Watching the following video, however, it’s hard not to be drawn to Pitta’s toughness.
Other tight ends the Patriots could consider:
Aaron Hernandez: Junior, Florida, 6-foot-2, 250 pounds. Can’t block, but had a big junior year (850 rec. yards, 8 TD). The question remains: will his quarterback be drafted as a tight end ahead of him?
Anthony McCoy: Senior, USC, 6-foot-5, 255 pounds. Another one-trick-pony pass-catcher, the overhyped McCoy will be a waste of some team’s second-or-third round pick.
Michael Hoomanawanui: Senior, Illinois, 6-foot-5, 270 pounds. A fantastic blocker with good size, Hoomanawanui doesn’t bring the route-running ability or speed of the other tight ends listed here.
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