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Jan 20, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (81) is unable to make the catch in the first half of the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots 2012 Player Grades: Tight Ends And Receivers

(This is the first entry into a seven part series that will grade the players from the 2012 season.)

Wes Welker:

It is tough to grade Welker’s season now that he is no longer in New England, but it has to be done. Once again Welker had a very productive year in 2012. He caught 118 balls for 1,354 yards and 6 touchdowns. It doesn’t get much better than that for a receiver. He was a beast in the slot and despite being on the same field as guys like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, he was Tom Brady’s number one guy. Welker often gets criticized for the amount of big drops he makes, but he made so many big plays last season that in my opinion, the drops are canceled out.

Grade: A

Brandon Lloyd:

I am not as critical of Lloyd as most people are, simply because of the fact that he produced on the football field. He had 74 catches for 911 yards and 4 touchdowns. That is pretty productive in my opinion. Not only did he rack up these numbers, but he did it as the fourth option on the team behind Welker, Gronk, and Hernandez. Granted, the two tight ends were injured for a part of the season, but if a guy has 900 receiving yards in a season, that is a good thing for that football team. I will admit that Lloyd was brought into the Patriots organization to be a outside threat for Tom Brady, and he never really brought that presence to the team. If he had, then I am willing to bet that the Pats would have been in the Super Bowl instead of the Ravens.

Grade: B

Julian Edelman:

Edelman was very effective for New England in 2012 when he was on the field. Unfortunately  he wasn’t on the field very often, because of numerous injuries he received throughout the season. He had 21 catches for 235 yards and 3 touchdowns to go along with one punt return for a touchdown for the year. Edelman has a lot of athletic ability, but he has to find a way to stay healthy for an entire football season, and he did not do that in 2012.

Grade: C

Deion Branch:

In 2012, Branch wasn’t on the team because of his ability to go out there on Sunday and make a lot of plays. His role was to be the “mentor” to the younger guys. Branch no longer has the athletic ability to separate from defenders on the field and produce. I think that now, he is just too old to play the game of football, and his stats prove it. He finished the year with 16 catches for 145 yards.

Grade: C+

Rob Gronkowski:

Despite playing only 11 games last year, Gronk finished with 55 catches for 790 yards and 10 touchdowns. That alone should illustrate how much of a monster Gronk is on the football field. He is a freak of nature, and when he is healthy there is nothing a defense can do to stop him. Tom Brady loves him in the red zone because of his height, and he has some of the best hands in the league. Obviously he has had some health issues as of late, but I don’t think that he is now a “injury-prone” guy. I think those injuries were just freak accidents that happen to football players every now and then. The bottom line is even though Gronk missed part of the season with a broken forearm, he still had a great year.

Grade: A-

Aaron Hernandez:

Hernandez had a very similar 2012 season to Gronk because he only played 10 games and still put up good numbers. He caught 51 balls for 483 yards and 5 touchdowns. Hernandez is another freak of nature that just needs to figure out a way to stay healthy for a full 16 game season. Hernandez was a very good intermediate route runner in 2012, and his ability to make guys miss after the catch was unbelievable. I think that when Hernandez was on the field last season, he almost as close to Welker was in terms of Brady’s favorite target. If Hernandez had been healthy for the entire year, then I really think that he would have been close to a 100 catch and 1,000 yard season.

Grade: A-

Michael Hoomanawanui:

Hooman served his purpose perfectly in 2012, he came in as a backup tight end that blocked very well and was able to catch passes in emergency situations. He had 5 catches for 109 yards for the year, and a lot of good blocks. I am glad that the Patriots kept him for next season, because he is a great backup tight end.

Grade: A

Daniel Fells:

Fells did not serve his purpose very well in 2012. In fact, Hooman actually took his spot on the depth chart because Fells wasn’t playing up to par. Fells was supposed to be the guy that Hooman was. He was supposed to be a good blocker, along with some decent hands. Throughout the year, he showed that he couldn’t do either of those things consistently, and at the end of the season he found himself on the bench.

Grade: D+

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Tags: Aaron Hernandez Brandon Lloyd Daniel Fells Deion Branch. Julian Edelman Michael Hoomanawanui New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski Wes Welker

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