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The Future of the Patriots’ Tight End Position


 

Well that sucks.  Knocked out of all three of my fantasy leagues AND Rob Gronkowski tears two ligaments and is done for the year.  The two things essentially go hand in hand, you see, as Gronk starts for two of my teams.

OUCH.

But even minus the fantasy aspect of it all, it still sucks.  Remember when the New England Patriots drafted two young tight ends and completely revolutionized the NFL’s offensive formula that many teams adopted soon afterward?  Of course.  That’s because it just happened three years ago.

Well, the Pats are right back where they were before the 2010 draft.  Heck, some would say they are worse off since they don’t even have a mid-level Ben Watson-type guy around.  Though I have to give Matthew Mulligan credit; that catch, run and attempted hurdle/knee to the face of Joe Haden last weekend was classic.  Mulligan’s no slug, but he’s also not the future.

Gronk could be out for up to a year (and frankly, it’s not even practical to know at this point where his future lies), and anybody not hiding under a rock knows the Hernandez situation.  So what happens next?

I’m not saying it’s time to panic.  Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman – provided they stay healthy – should at minimum give New England a chance to remain competitive at a high level.  They’ve all done a great job thus far.  But I think it may be time to seriously consider drafting one, maybe even two, tight ends come next April.

There are three big names floating around right now in 2014 mock draft circles:

  • Eric Ebron, North Carolina.  Ebron is listed at 6’4”, 245 pounds and is projected to be one of, if not the top position player taken in April.  He is athletic enough to split outside and take advantage of smaller cornerbacks.  He runs fluid routes and makes tough, acrobatic catches.  Early comparisons have been made to Vernon Davis.
  • Jace Amaro, Texas Tech.  Amaro is a big 6’5”, 260-pound body who has dominated the college game.  He is a strong route runner, picks up large chunks of yardage after the catch, runs a 4.67 40, and is a big, tough body to bring down.  Echoes of Jimmy Graham have been heard in Amaro’s scouting report.
  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington.  The biggest of the three top tight ends, ASJ measures up at 6’6” and weighs in at close to 270 pounds.  The guy is a monster red zone threat and was considered by many to be the best in the class until a DUI charge and suspension set him back a few steps.

Another name New England could possibly examine in the mid to later rounds is Oregon’s Colt Lyerla.  Lyerla is listed at 6’5” and runs a sub-4.6 40-yard dash.  He’s got physical and mental toughness, and admirable balance and agility, to go along with his tremendous straight-line speed, but he has had his share of character concerns.

He was arrested for possession of cocaine in October of this year, opted out of a drug treatment program, and mysteriously left the Ducks midseason in order to prepare for the NFL draft.  The guy is a first-round talent, but his stock will likely tumble come draft day.  The Patriots have gambled on guys like this in the past, but after being burned on a handful of those risks, will they take a chance on Lyerla?

The entire situation is one to monitor once the season comes to a close.  Again, it is certainly no time to panic.  But with Tom Brady rapidly approaching 40, it’s time to think more aggressively than ever.

Tags: Austin Seferian-jenkins Eric Ebron Jace Amaro New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski Tight End Tom Brady