Sam Monson (Pro Football Focus) Aaron Hernandez: The new NFL athlete.
... The Patriots have devised ways of using Aaron Hernandez that are proving equally successful, but for slightly different reasons. Hernandez is not the fastest player on the field, nor is he the strongest, or a physical monster like Rob Gronkowski, but he is an unusual blend of those traits such that it makes him uniquely between positions. The Patriots can at any time play him in one of three spots on offense: wide out, tight end, or running back. The league’s complete dependency on personnel packages and substitutions makes that very important. ...
Hernandez played significant time as a tight end, a wide out, and a running back in the backfield last season as the Patriots shifted him around to try and force favorable match-ups with defenders. Moving tight ends into the slot and back is commonplace in the NFL today, with a new breed of athletic, receiving tight ends providing advantages against coverage just by their presence, and that’s exactly how Hernandez started this season. The trouble is that his ability to run block was extremely poor, even by the standards set by today’s receiving tight ends, so there was little incentive for a team not to treat him as a receiver. Even if the Patriots lined him up tight and ran the ball, the defense wasn’t at a disadvantage because his blocking was so bad.
So New England changed tack: when they saw teams treating Hernandez as a receiver, instead of aligning him in tight and using him to block against smaller defensive backs, they would put him in the backfield, and have him run the ball. Hernandez may not be much of a blocker, but he is tough enough to run the ball into contact or hit the hole with power, and more than athletic enough to make people miss with the ball in his hands. ...
While The Planet Theory still holds weight in today’s NFL, those super athletes are becoming harder and harder to find, so teams have modified the theory. The league’s ever increasing specialization means that the key to unlocking a defense can come either from finding an athlete that no single defender can match up with physically, or otherwise find an athlete that can transcend a single-position role and force a defense into the wrong personnel grouping before the snap. If an offense can do that on a consistent basis, they have the cutting edge that everybody is looking for. Aaron Hernandez is the best example of that player, but if teams have been watching the tape this season, there are going to be a lot more looking for their own version of the new NFL athlete.
- Andy Hart mentions the number of former first-round picks the Patriots have signed as free agents this offseason.
- Erik Scalavino and Andy Hart debate whether Bountygate just got worse.
- Patriots Roster Report - The PFW crew discusses the addition of LB Bobby Carpenter and looks at the preseason schedule. (6.51 min. program)
- Draft Prospect Review: Defensive backs - The PFW crew breaks down the top Draft prospects at defensive back for 2012. (16.11 min. program)
- Paul Kenyon reports that despite a dozen signings, the Pats are still $10 million under the salary cap.
- Tom E. Curran takes a closer look at the 48th overall pick.
- Mike Rodak looks at some of the recent players picked at the 31st spot to give us a feel for the type of player the Patriots might draft with that pick.
- Karen Guregian notes the Patriots were always considered in the running for FA safety Yeremiah Bell, according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus.
- Jimmy Toscano reports the Patriots have been eyeing the secondary in draft visits and workouts.
- Mike Reiss notes Gary Horton of ESPN's Scouts Inc. details needs for every team, and his view of the Patriots starts with defense being the top four needs on his list.
- Mike Reiss shares some quick-hit thoughts from the Patriots and around the NFL.
- Christopher Price discusses 10 things we learned this week about the Patriots and the NFL.
- Mike Reiss analyzes Nolan Nawrocki's Draft value chart from a Patriots perspective.
- Jeff Howe thinks DE Andre Branch (Clemson) could be the Patriots' replacement for Mark Anderson in the NFL Draft.
- Mike Reiss gives us his thoughts on the mock draft selections from Don Banks of SI.com for the Patriots, with both focusing on defense.
- Karen Guregian NFL Notes: Ben Watson talks about the value and weight of the Wonderlic test; Wes Welker dishes about his game day meals, favorite vacation spots and music of choice; Sergio Brown has been doing charity week and taking part in the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University under the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program.
- Mike Reiss serves up a few leftovers from Thursday's weekly chat.
- CSNNE reports Josh McDaniels reportedly bought a $2.5 million dollar home in Westwood, MA.
- Ricky Doyle posts a pic of Rob Gronkowski hanging with the Easter Bunny.
- Dan Pompei (Nat'l Football Post) Sunday Blitz: Why Tannehill is becoming a top 10 pick; the tall QB dilemma; Claiborne's Wonderlic and much more.
- Michael David Smith (ProFootballTalk) Jets, Patriots and Eagles are options for Yeremiah Bell.
- Nolan Nawrocki (Pro Football Weekly) PFW's exclusive Draft value chart.
- Peter King (SI) MMQB: Top of draft shows stark contrast between haves and have-nots.
- Russ Lande (Sporting News) NFL Draft 2012: Guard/Center rankings.
- Tony Pauline (SI.com) Tannehill among players whose stock has risen since pro day.
- Dan Wolken (Fox Sports) Bountygate makes commish look good.
- Judy Battista (NY Times) Ruling on bounty appeals will be signal to the public.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) New NFLPA president plans to "crunch all the numbers" on cap projections.
- Report (Fox Sports) Source: NFL Network to drop bankrupt Sapp.