So to the surprise of many, the Patriots chose to carry four TEs into the season Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells, Visanthe Shiancoe...FIVE if you include Ballard who is PUPed, SIX if Silvestro makes it onto the PS... some may think that is just an over-reaction to how costly the injury to Gronk was heading into the SB... but I have been thinking for a while now ,just how they might plan on expanding their success with TEs this year.
Months ago, I typed up a Pre-Draft review:
Here is an excerpt of those thoughts:
Wild Card position in the Draft:
The Patriots could of course trade down/out of any of their picks, the Patriots could select a solid O-lineman and go the safe route with any of their top 4 picks... and possibly the Patriots could decide to expand on their TE based Offense, broaden their ability to gain mismatches against Defenses by adding another top TE prospect from this draft, and incorporating 3 TE sets into their attack.
This is where MY personal views stray from what is likely to happen, with the Patriots signing Fells, they are now 3 TEs deep on the roster. I have adjusted my Mock Draft to reflect the Patriots additions and likely targets... but if it were me, I'd make drafting Fleener a top priority, and I'd go into 2012 with 4 TEs with full expectations to use 3 TE sets as the dominant portion of my attack.
You know what the difference is between Calvin Johnson and Gronk?
Very little IMO... neither can be covered or stopped easily.
Lets say the Patriots added Fleener to the TEs they already have...
The Patriots would line up in every formation with Hernandez-or-Fleener Welker-or-Edelman and Fells-or-Gronk on the field... two players deep and a solid consistent formation of a 2 TE set ... often times going to a 3 TE set. With that thrid TE being able to flex into nearly any role, fill any slot.
Having four guys all around 6'5 and 250 pounds able to release downfield and plow thru smaller opponents, combined with one incredibly difficult to cover cut-one-a-dime slot Reciever always being out there... you tell me, what Defense in the NFL has the personel to match up with that and stop it?
Coby Fleener TE 6'6 245
Why the pick - With the success the Patriots had with the two TE Offense, it makes sense to ensure they have the talent to keep it rolling, even if an injury arises to either Gronk or Hernandez, Fleener ensures the offense will not be crippled as it was in SB46. In addition, Fleener allows them to expand the TE based Offense allowing for Hernandez to flex to H-back and WR. Fleener as well has this flexibility, allowing for the Patriots to go into formations with 3 TEs, two of which are flexible enough to handle H-back and WR duties.
As off balance as the NFL was when facing the Hernandez and Gronk attack, they would be thoroughly overwhelmed by the 3 TE formations, and the Patriots would take apart Defenses with as much success in 2012 as they did in 2011. This is the type of pick (and shift in Offense) that takes the NFL by surprise and it takes them a season (or more) to come with an answer to counter.
And there you have it, that is the direction I think we will see the Offense going in... a whole lot of 2 TE sets, and an active and flexible 3 TE set regularly sprinkled in.
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