If the New England Patriots cannot talk Tony Gonzalez out of retirement (and possibly even if they can), they need to draft a tight end. The Patriots have many other holes they need to fill as well, including wide receiver, cornerback, pass rusher, offensive line and defensive tackle, but seeing as 22 tight ends were invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this year, the Patriots should have no problem addressing their need at the position.
It’s amazing the Patriots are in need of a tight end considering they invested almost $100 million in the position. But Rob Gronkowski (the best tight end in the NFL when he’s healthy) has been injury-prone (he is currently rehabbing a torn ACL), playing injured or been unavailable for the playoffs in three straight seasons, and Aaron Hernandez was released before the 2013 season after he was charged with murder.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels loves to run an offense with two tight ends on the field, and even if free agents Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan, who are mainly blocking tight ends, return to the team (and I believe it’s doubtful either one will), the Patriots need to add depth at the tight end position.
So who should the Patriots target in this year’s draft? Approximately 20 tight ends could be drafted this year, including as many as three in the first round according to NFLDraftScout.com. The Patriots have the No. 29 overall pick in the 2014 draft and picks in the second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh rounds. It is possible the Patriots draft a tight end in the first round — maybe Texas Tech‘s Jace Amaro (6-foot-5, 260-pounds). Kliff Kingsbury, the current Texas Tech coach, has described Amaro as one of the biggest and most talented kids he’s ever been around. Amaro had 1,352 yards (NCAA record for tight ends), 106 receptions and seven touchdowns last season, his third at Texas Tech. Amaro has had his share of off-field issues including credit card fraud and being ejected from a bowl game after punching an opponent. These issues would not be a problem for the Patriots. The Patriots have proven they can take on players with some character issues or baggage and not have it be a distraction. With the other needs the Patriots must address and the depth at the tight end position available in this year’s draft, I believe the Patriots should find a tight end later in the draft.
That is the same reason I feel the Patriots should not target North Carolina‘s Eric Ebron (6-foot-4, 250-pounds) who is possibly the top tight end prospect. Ebron had 62 receptions for 973 yards with three touchdowns in his junior year at North Carolina and compares himself to Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers. Ebron will most likely be a playmaker in the NFL, but the Patriots can draft a tight end in later rounds.
One tight end the Patriots should focus on is Iowa‘s C.J. Fiedorowicz (6-foot-6, 265-pounds). Fiedorowicz could be the most well-rounded tight end who could possibly be drafted in the first three rounds. He was impressive at the Combine, and if he is still on the board when the Patriots draft in the second or third round he could potentially be the type of tight end they are looking for.
They could also target Arthur Lynch (6-foot-5, 259-pounds), the senior out of Georgia. Lynch, a native of Dartmouth, Mass. played at Gillette Stadium in the MIAA Super Bowl, and he has dreamed of being a Patriot one day. Lynch had 459 yards on 30 receptions with five scores for Georgia last season and had a great week at the Senior Bowl. Lynch is underrated, and the Patriots could possibly get great value if he is available in later rounds.
Other tight ends who could possibly be available in later rounds include UMass‘ Rob Blanchflower (6-foot-5, 258-pounds), New Haven‘s Michael Flacco (former Boston Red Sox minor league baseball player and brother of Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco) and Maine‘s Justin Perillo.
There are a lot of tight ends the Patriots could potentially target. They just need to make sure they address the need of tight end and draft for value.