Can our beloved Patriots get back to the dominance at the TE position that injuries and alleged murder tore apart? We take a look at the prospects that can get the ball rolling in the right direction.
The 2013 season was looking like a promising offensively, even with the departure of leading receiver Wes Welker, mostly in part because the dominate duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were returning, and Gronk was inching closer to health. Then the expected happened, with Hernandez being cut with rumors of murder charges on the horizon and a back injury sustained by Gronk right as we thought he was finally healthy from the broken arm he sustained in the late 2012 season. Let's face we went from Welker, Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd and Gronk to a somewhat questioned signing of injury prone but highly talented Danny Amendola.
To the dismay of all, Gronk ended playing less then half the season and missing the playoffs again with yet again ANOTHER injury, and Amendola for the first half of the season showed promise when he played, but could not stay on the field due to his famous glass jaw. Julian Edelman was stepping up and becoming a solid replacement for Welker... But was that enough? The answer was almost, as the Pats made it one game from yet again another Super Bowl appearance. Alot of the lost offense occurred because the Pats were rolling out a starting TE group that made Brady feel like so:
Even though Ocho, Moss and Owens might have been a more reliable group of talent for Brady to gun to. But I digress, It is time to look towards the future. And towards the class of TE's that make up the 2014 NFL draft.
This folks, is the First installment of Draft Needs Edition. We look at TE's first.
The TE Talent
Eric Ebron, TE North Carolina 6-4, 245
Ebron is a potential three down starting TE in the NFL, and has even been dubbed by NFL.com as possibly being the NFL's next great TE. He finished the 2013 season with 62 receptions for 973 yards and 3 tds. He shows exceptional speed and ball handling skills for his size, and pre-combine has clocked in with a 4.68 40 yard dash time according to ESPN.com. He is too fast for most linebackers and safeties, while having the pure size to dominate defensive backs. And this might sound familiar as he is projected to be able to line up at TE, in the backfield and as a slot receiver. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. projects the the Raven will be selecting Ebron as the number 16 overall pick. This comes as a mild surprise because the Ravens are expected to re-sign or franchise Dennis Pitta. This also means that the Pats might have to trade up or hope for a drop if they covet Ebron.
Eric Ebron || North Carolina Highlights ᴴᴰ (via Harris Highlights)
There is no denying that Ebron is an exceptional athlete with a special combination of size and strength. He flashes the ability to be a dangerous receiver and impact blocker. Ebron is very fast running through the secondary and is excellent attacking the middle of the field on slants and seam routes. For a West Coast offense, Ebron would be a nice weapon as a receiver. He also operates well as a slot receiver. Ebron's agility and fluid athleticism means can execute a variety of roles, and could even play some h-back.
Jace Amaro TE Texas Tech 6-5. 260
Another one of the hot names at TE this year is from Texas Tech, in the large pass receiving frame of 6'5 Jace Amaro. Numbers wise he really sticks out from the pack with 106 catches for 1352 yards and 7 td's a pre-combine 4.66 40 yard time. And not to mention, his last game proved to be historic as he broke the NCAA record for most receiving yards in a single season by a TE, passing Rice's James Casey from the 2008 season. He finished with 6 - 100 yard performances this season which also led the NCAA. Take one quick look at this highlights video and it will tell you he mirrors some of Gronk's playing style.
Jace Amaro || Texas Tech Highlights ᴴᴰ (via Harris Highlights)
Nevertheless, despite his frame, he is a polished route runner and has tremendous hands. He still needs improvement in the run-blocking game. But a player his size with the versatility to line up all over the field along with the agility and speed to make plays consistently like a wide receiver is rare-and increasingly valued in the NFL.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE Washington 6-6, 276
The least numbers gifted of the big 3 impact TE's in the 2014 draft class, ASJ only managed 36 catches for 450 yards but led all 3 with 8 td's. His 40 time is a bit slower, but he is also much larger then the other draftees, still coming in at a brisk 4.75 40 time even with his mammoth frame. His draft stock has been hurt however by a March 2013 DUI arrest that left his suspended for the first game of the 2013 season. His junior season was disappointing compared to his sophomore season where he compiled 69 catches for 852 yards and 7 tds. ASJ is a pure physical specimen who looks like he could be a high impact TE in the mold of Gronk or the the Saints Jimmy Graham.
The Supreme Austin Seferian-Jenkins Highlights (via MockingNFLDraft)
As a receiver, Seferian-Jenkins is a matchup nightmare. He is too quick for linebackers to cover in man coverage and too big for defensive backs. The junior has a burst off the line and excellent straight-line speed to burn defenses down the middle seam. Seferian-Jenkins uses his size and strength to box out defenders for the ball. He has no problem going up over defensive backs to make contested catches. Seferian-Jenkins has phenomenal agility and body control for a thick tight end, and his basketball background is easily visible there.
To go along with his size and speed, Seferian-Jenkins has excellent hands and runs good routes. He is a rare tight end with his run-after-the-catch ability. Seferian-Jenkins uses his burst to run away from defenders and his size to bounce off of tacklers. He is very hard for one defensive back to bring down. Once Seferian-Jenkins has the ball, he does a nice job of picking up extra yards with a nose for the red zone.
There is a very deep talented class in 2014 for an extreme position of need for the Pats. now to figure out which one makes the team as dangerous as they were in the past.