The New England Patriots are fortunate enough to have the best tight end in the NFL. The quality of the rest of the depth chart is up for debate.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski led the Patriots with 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns on 72 receptions. He missed one game with a terrifying knee injury, but he quickly returned the line-up. That said, he wasn't himself over the final four games of the regular season. He looked to be back in shape in the playoffs.
Behind Gronkowski, there is a lot left to be desired. Scott Chandler, one of the free agent acquisitions that could have transformed the Patriots offense, didn't pan out as expected and will be 31 next season. He collected 259 yards and 4 touchdowns on 23 receptions, which is a major disappointment after all of the offseason's hoopla.
Michael Williams is a quality blocking tight end, but doesn't offer much value as a receiver with 26 yards on 3 receptions. If the Patriots could improve upon either Chandler or Williams, the team wouldn't even hesitate.
Fullback James Develin missed the full season and could return on the cheap this year, but the fact that the Patriots didn't even try to replace him on the roster raises some major flags about how the team views the position moving forward.
Overall, the position started off with plenty of potential as the four tight end packages on the goal line were an inspiration. Unfortunately, the Patriots took that play out of the playbook once Chandler fell out of favor.
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At 31, it's unlikely that Chandler will improve, although it's possible that he could become a better contributor with a full season under his belt. It's clear that quarterback Tom Brady didn't trust Chandler after he dropped big pass after big pass over the course of the season. Chandler offers some value as a possible salary cap casualty.
Gronkowski and Williams should stick around as the young core at the position, while Develin and Derby could both compete for a roster spot.
The tight end draft class will be abysmal so the Patriots probably won't be able to add a young player at the end of the draft. There are actually a handful of quality depth tight ends that could be available in free agency that could interest the Patriots, but the question is whether or not Chandler remains the better option.
The position entered 2015 with some serious expectations that the team was unable to meet. Hopefully 2016 will be a better season for the group.