New England Patriots undrafted rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld has been one of the standouts during OTAs, minicamp, training camp, and preseason games this offseason. Sudfeld has more than lived up to his billing as a super sleeper, and there is no reason to sleep on the talented Nevada product now. If Rob Gronkowski does indeed hit the PUP list, then there is little doubt in my mind that Zach Sudfeld should be the man replacing Gronk as the starter until Gronk is healthy. No tight end on this roster is as fast or athletic as Sudfeld, as good of a receiver as Sudfeld, has as much upside as Sudfeld, or is as versatile as Sudfeld. The UDFA TE has the ability to split out wide and be a “move” tight end in the Patriots offense, and the Pats don’t have to completely move away from the twin TE packages with Sudfeld in the fold. This team is going to be more of a horizontally spread out team with more depth at receiver this season, but the Pats can still use a guy like Sudfeld to help continue to create pressure in the middle of the field.
The Patriots have so many weapons and so much upside, and that’s evidenced by the way guys like Sudfeld and Shane Vereen played yesterday. During yesterday’s press conference following the 25-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bill Belichick was asked about how Zach Sudfeld has been progressing since the Pats signed him.
“He’s worked hard. Zach’s worked hard to learn our offense. It’s a little different than what they did at Nevada. He’s a smart kid and he’s got some skill. He’s been very diligent in his preparation. He’s been out there almost every day out there practicing. Coach Godsey has done a good job with him. He’s had to learn how to be an on-the-line tight end. He’s making progress but he’s got a long way to go. He’s made a lot of gains. He’s a hardworking kid. He’s smart and tough. He’s got a couple things going for him.”
Zach Sudfeld has been excellent this preseason, and he had a monstrous game last night. His 22-yard touchdown catch from Ryan Mallet showcased some big-time concentration and strength to score, and he also did a great job hauling in a two-point conversion pass from Tom Brady. Although Sudfeld admitted that the play was mostly about Brady threading the needle on a great pass, Sudfeld did need to make a great catch in order for that play to work. He had to show impeccable control in order to stay in bounds at the back of the end zone, he needed to be strong enough (more than anything, really) to hold off two Buccaneers defenders, and he needed to have the hands and ball skills in the first place to make the play. Brady’s pass made it all work, but Sudfeld didn’t have an easy two either.
Throughout the whole game, Sudfeld’s pass-catching ability stood out to me, and he has to be the starter if Gronk misses time.