Wednesday Patriots Notes: Rob Gronkowski, Bill Belichick, Alfonzo Dennard

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: (L-R) Tom Brady #12, Rob Gronkowski #87 and Deion Branch #84 of the New England Patriots celebrate after Gronkowski caught a 10-yard touchdown reception from Brady in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

When the Patriots offense takes the field on any given play, I used to firmly believe that quarterback Tom Brady was the best player on the field for New England. After watching them last season, I second guessed my prior judgement many times.

After a very solid first year in the league, Rob Gronkowski exploded onto the NFL scene, as he developed into one of the league's most elite tight ends. In 2011, caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns, which was worthy enough for an All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection. He and fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez teamed up to form an unprecedented two-headed monster at the position.

On Wednesday, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah compiled a list of the top players in the league that are 25 years of age or younger. While the 22-year old Hernandez was one of those who just missed the cut, the 23-year old Gronkowski did make the cut. More from Jeremiah:

The word "Beast" is grossly overused in today's sports vernacular. However, in Gronk's case, there is no better term to describe him. In just his second season, he established himself as the best tight end in the NFL. He hauled in 90 balls for 1,327 yards and 17 TDs (a record for tight ends). He had multiple TDs in seven different regular season games. He has ideal size, speed and hands. His ability to use his frame to wall-off defenders on third down is a huge luxury for Tom Brady. I'd also rank him as the second best red-zone target in the NFL behind only Detroit's Calvin Johnson.

BELICHICK TOPS FORBES HIGHEST PAID COACHES LIST

It's a pretty common thought that the best coaches around professional and collegiate sports should be paid the most. So it was no shock when we learned that arguably the best coach in sports is also the highest paid one.

For the second straight year, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was ranked number one on the 2012 Forbes.com Top-10 highest paid coaches. Belichick, who earns a whopping (but well deserved) $7.5 million dollars annually, is one of the most methodical and successful coaches the NFL, and professional sports for that matter, has ever seen. The Forbes profile on the highest paid coach:

1. Bill Belichick

New England Patriots
Annual Salary: $7.5 million

Career Record: 175-97 (.643)

Titles: 3

Two excruciating losses to the Giants have left Belichick short of what would have been a record five Super Bowl titles. After a so-so run in Cleveland in the 1990s, he's won over 72% of his games since taking over at New England in 2000.

DENNARD WAIVES PRELIMINARY HEARING

When the Patriots selected Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard in the seventh round of this year's NFL Draft, they were getting a very good value pick, with one giant drawback. Off the field issues.

Just five days before the start of the draft, Dennard was arrested in Lincoln for allegedly striking a police officer. If convicted, Dennard could face up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He remains free on $5,000 bond.

The latest news out of Foxborough is that Dennard has reportedly waived his right to a preliminary hearing, and will be arranged May 30 in Lancaster Country District, on the charge of third-degree assault.

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