Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are the locks atop the Patriots' tight end depth chart.
Rob Gronkowski, #87: Arguably the best complete tight end the league has to offer, Rob Gronkowski is the Patriots #1 pure in-line tight end. Don't be mistaken though, Gronkowski can line up at a multitude of spots for the Patriots. And although there was some concern surrounding the health of his ankle following offseason surgery, all indications are that Gronkowski will be good to go for the start of training camp on Thursday.
Aaron Hernandez, #81: Classifying Aaron Hernandez as just a tight end would be a mistake. While he occasionally lines up in the traditional in-line spot, Hernandez' versatility allows him to line-up anywhere on the field. He's the real-life version of the fantasy "flex" position.
Daniel Fells, #86: When the Patriots signed Daniel Fells to a big 3 year, $5.25 million deal in March, it was with the intent of having him as one of the league's most solid #3 tight ends. Unfortunately for fells, an offseason leg injury held him out of most of the team's organized offseason activities, and will now apparently land him on the PUP list to start the preseason. The team's signing of Visanthe Shiancoe could indicate a concern with Fells' health heading into the regular season.
Rest of the tight end depth chart after the jump!
Visanthe Shiancoe: The Patriots have reportedly handed the veteran a one year deal, worth $1.2 million, with $400,000 in guarantees and up to $800,000 in incentives. Those type of numbers likely indicate that the team likes Shiancoe's chances at making the 53 roster, which could correlate to the health of Fells. While Shiancoe regressed a bit in 2011, he's still a solid tight end who should make a good #3.
Jake Ballard: When the Patriots claimed Jake Ballard off waivers from the Giants in June, it was with an eye on the future. Ballard will miss the entire 2012 season after undergoing microfracture surgery this offseason. Nonetheless, he's a really solid blocking tight end who showed he could factor as a receiver as well. If he were to return to health and contribute, he could easily become one of the league's very best #3 tight ends in 2013 and beyond.
Brad Herman, #82: Herman, an undrafted free agent out of Iowa, landed on injured reserve this offseason after sustaining a mini-camp injury. He's actually a talented player who was draftable, so he could figure into the competition for a practice squad role in 2013.
Tyler Urban, #47: An undrafted free agent out of West Virginia, Urban is a big body (6'5", 249 lbs) who can be split out wide as a receiver. He's a longshot to make the roster.
Alex Silvestro (DE), #69: Silvestro, a defensive end for the Patriots in 2011, worked with the Patriots tight ends during mini-camps and OTA's. This could have been due to a shortage of healthy options at the position, but Silvestro gets the recognition at the position nonetheless.