The New England Patriots know they will have All Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski in the starting lineup in 2018, but one of the most important players on the entire roster is the number two on the depth chart.
If Gronkowski misses any time this season, who will step up in his place? How many players will the Patriots retain as his back-up? Can any of them carve out a role on offense while Gronkowski is healthy?
There are four players competing for what is likely two roster spots, although the Patriots have been comfortable retaining as few as two or as many as four tight ends during the season.
Dwayne Allen has the inside edge after serving as the back-up in 2017. Allen is a great run blocker, but was never able to develop a rapport with Tom Brady as a receiver. The 6’3, 265-pound tight end averaged a career-low 5.6 yards per game last season and that is far too low of production to justify his $5 million cap hit, regardless of his blocking.
Sophomore Jacob Hollister could step up with a full season under his belt. Over the second-half of the season, the Patriots opted to play Hollister over Allen on receiving downs or in the red zone. Hollister has a spot on the roster because of his special teams ability, but if Hollister has developed as a blocker he could take the #2 spot away from Allen.
The recently signed Troy Niklas never developed with the Arizona Cardinals, but he drew comparisons to Rob Gronkowski when he was a prospect with Notre Dame. He’s battled injuries that could prevent him from ever becoming a rotational NFL player, but he could be the best all-around player if he finds his footing.
Will Tye spent last year on the Patriots practice squad- a surprise based on the start of his career. In 2015 and 2016 with the Giants, the 6’2, 255-pound Tye collected 955 receiving yards and 4 receiving touchdowns over 30 games, leading the team in snaps at the position. The Giants selected tight end Evan Engram in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft and Tye failed to make the roster.
Much like the other roster competitions, there’s a lot to like from each of the tight ends in camp. Allen has the experience and blocking, Hollister has the receiving ability, Niklas has the unlocked potential, and Tye could offer a little bit of everything.
So which players do you think will make the initial roster?
Which tight end should be the #2 on the Patriots roster?
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