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Patriots preseason: Rookie Jacob Hollister named Pro Football Focus’ top tight end of week 1

The Patriots might have a star on their hand.

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The New England Patriots are trying to find a third tight end to hold on the roster behind Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen and undrafted rookie Jacob Hollister is one of the top candidates. We’ve already broken down Hollister’s contributions against the Jacksonville Jaguars where he collected seven passes for 116 yards, joining an exclusive group of 100-yard preseason receivers.

Hollister was the Patriots top graded player from the first preseason game according to Pro Football Focus. He was also the top graded tight end in the entire NFL for the week.

“Jacob Hollister is the latest Patriots tight end to make a splash in the preseason, catching 7-of-9 targets for 116 yards and a 118.8 passer rating when targeted,” PFF writes. “It didn’t matter who the Jaguars put in place to try to cover him, as he caught balls against six different defenders. Hollister doesn’t offer much in the way of blocking as his 43.9 run blocking grade would suggest, but his 88.4 receiving grade was easily the best of all tight ends, and that will go a long way to helping his cause to make the team’s final 53-man roster.”

The Patriots preferred to use an extra offensive lineman or fellow undrafted rookie tight end Sam Cotton as a blocker to allow Hollister to run routes as a receiver. Hollister held his own as a blocker on a few run plays, but no one would confuse him for vintage Gronkowski.

New England doesn’t necessarily have to retain a blocking-focused third tight end, like they have in the past with Michael Williams. Hollister’s contributions as a receiver could simply be so much greater than the overall tight ends he’s competing against and that could be enough to secure a position on the team.

But if Hollister can show base improvement as a blocker over the next three preseason games- he doesn’t have to become good, he just has to show progress- then he’s an ideal project tight end for the Patriots to develop.