What Now for the New England Patriots Tight End Position?

As recently reported, TE Alge Crumpler has an apparent contract in line with the New England Patriots. However, this is just a band-aid for the position and absolutely not a long term solution. Much like how Shawn Springs is mentoring Darius Butler, Fred Taylor is helping Laurence Maroney and Junior Seau and Teddy Bruschi influenced Jerod Mayo, so too will Crumpler gain an apprentice. The only question is: How?

ESPN's draft man Todd McShay says that the Patriots have a great chance to build the Tight End position through the draft. He mentions the great depth that can be gained in the later rounds of the draft, as well as the potential first round talent that should drop to the second round, due to this extremely talent rich draft. While I don't think the Patriots should utilize an early pick on a Tight End, the depth at Tight End in this draft is extremely promising. I'm looking forward to a quality player pick-up this draft- one who can stick around.

"Tight end ... [is a spot] I think you can get really, really good value in the second round, where they’re [The Patriots are] sitting," McShay said on a national conference call Thursday.

"...At tight end, I think you can cash in, even late in the second round. Rob Gronkowski from Arizona would be a good pick. He’s had some injuries and would be a first-round pick if it were not for those injuries. He’s a tough blocker and really catches the ball well. I would say he’s an underrated athlete.

"Dennis Pitta from BYU, he doesn’t have great size -- 6-4, 245 – but he’s one of the most instinctive route-runners and pass catchers I’ve seen at tight end in years in the draft. And even Aaron Hernandez, who I know [Bill] Belichick and some of those guys are working out [Thursday] down in Florida. Hernandez ran a 4.61 [Wednesday] in the 40, which is one of the fastest times, and might be the fastest time of any of the first three rounds of tight ends [selected]. Then you get into the third round and Ed Dickson from Oregon, Dorin Dickerson from Pittsburgh. It’s a deep group of tight ends. I think you don’t reach for Jermaine Gresham [of Oklahoma] in the first round and you let the right fit fall to you somewhere with those three picks in the second round."

If this draft is as deep as he says, we'll be in for a great player, who gets a fantastic mentor.

However, Former Patriots TE Christian Fauria believes that the Patriots' TE position has changed.

"In that offense, the tight end now is either an extra tackle or a blocking guy," he said. "You don’t expect too much from him. You want him to be there when you need him, but he’s not a major part of the offense."

I completely agree with this assessment. The pick-up of Crumpler shows that we are looking for a more talented blocker first, and receiver second, for our TEs. On an offense where Moss, Welker and, hopefully, now Edelman are able to make the big catches on 1st, 2nd and 3rd downs and can move the chains, we don't need a big target down the field to get the first down. Welker and Edelman are gaining the yards underneath instead of over the top- a slower, but much more successful method of moving down the field.

So what now? Do we pick up a player early in the draft who has great blocking and receiving talent, despite that his receiving skills might never come to focus in our style of offense? Or do we wait until the later rounds to pick up a block-first TE who can catch if needed?

Your move, Belichick.

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