Patriots fans should want this Day 3 tight end target after 2024 NFL Combine

Rutgers v Penn State
Rutgers v Penn State / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

Among the various roster holes that need to be dealt with in free agency and the draft, this year is the tight end position, as the Patriots don't have a single one under contract for the 2024 season.

Both Mike Gesicki and Hunter Henry are set to test the free agent market again, and Jerod Mayo will need to decide if either should be re-signed while also taking a good look at the incoming rookie class of tight ends.

Although it's a position of need for the offense, it will almost certainly not be addressed in the earlier rounds of the draft. The top tight end of the class, Brock Bowers, is projected to go in the top 10, and the rest of the available players at the position are quite a ways down the draft board.

Fortunately, that works out for the Patriots since they will be out of contention for Bowers, and now that the Combine has concluded, they can set their eyes on specific guys who tested well this past weekend.

One name that stood out was Penn State's Theo Johnson, a 6'6" tight end who ran a faster 40-yard dash than Rob Gronkowski.

He's far from being the legendary tight end and is more of a developmental talent than a day-one starter, but he has all the tools in his arsenal to be a solid addition to the offense after some good coaching and development.

The Patriots could find a diamond in the rough with Theo Johnson

Despite being labeled a day-three prospect, Johnson put together one of the more impressive showings in the Combine. He ranked in the top 2 of all tight ends tested in every drill, finishing second in the vertical jump (39.5 inches), broad jump (10-foot, 5-inch), and the 40-yard dash (4.58s). He ranked first in the 20-yard shuffle with a time of 4.19 seconds.

On the surface, those are impressive numbers for anyone at the position. However, given his size (6'6", 259 pounds), it caught the attention of everyone watching the Friday drills.

Johnson further impressed with his athleticism. His RAS score (relative athletic score) was nearly perfect at 9.99. That score has him compared to other notable tight ends from their Combine days, like Jimmy Graham in 2010 and fan favorite Martellus Bennett in 2008.

It was a significant performance for Johnson and teams who need a tight end, like the Patriots, and now they have a player they can look at beyond the first round.

Johnson's stock likely rose based on his Combine performance on Friday and hopefully he will remain on the board for the Patriots to possibly take. He's a solid blocker with long arms and big hands, which New England is known for loving from their tight ends, and he could really benefit to learn from a guy like Hunter Henry, who should be re-signed.

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