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Patriots Rookie Projections: Lee Smith

The seventh in a series looking at the Patriots' 2011 NFL Draft picks, and the roles they might play for the Patriots next year.

Name: Lee Smith

School: Marshall

Position: Tight End

Drafted: 5th Round, 159th Overall

Projected Stats: 3 Games Played, 1 Start; 1 reception, 7 yards

Projected Role: Lee Smith is a big body who joins a crowded group at the tight end position for the New England Patriots.  Smith is an excellent blocker, arguably the best in-line blocking tight end in the 2011 NFL Draft.  However, he is not polished as a receiver and certainly will not take playing time or a roster spot away from Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez because of that.  He will get a chance to compete with Alge Crumpler for a spot, although I believe Crumpler's veteran leadership, toughness, smarts, and experience will make him a very tough cut.  Smith will have to prove he is worth keeping around as a fourth tight end, or else he will land on the practice squad.  Either way, come 2012, Smith will likely be the top in-line blocking tight end for the Patriots, if they can get him to the practice squad without him being claimed off waivers.

Bottom Line: Practice squad in 2011, top blocking tight end in 2012