Stop Comparing Martellus Bennett to Aaron Hernandez

Nov 9, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (83) scores a touchdown during the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 9, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (83) scores a touchdown during the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

New Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett has already gotten plenty of comparisons to Aaron Hernandez, but they played the tight end position almost completely differently.

There’s an old MadTV sketch from 2001 where Bob Newhart plays a therapist. If you’ve seen it, you already know what I’m talking about. After listening attentively to people’s personal problems, bad habits, and unhealthy relationship habits, he offers the following counsel:


The Patriots, as you’ve all surely heard by now, acquired tight end Martellus Bennett in a get-this-guy-out-of-town trade with the Chicago Bears on Wednesday, and it took everyone all of two seconds to start up with “THE TWO TIGHT END OFFENSE WITH GRONK AND AARON HERNANDEZ IS BACK, BABY!”

Here’s plenty of intelligent sports writers hopping on the Jump To Conclusions Mat:

New York Post: “Have the Patriots finally found their Aaron Hernandez replacement?”

(Just cause it’s the Post, it’s fair to wonder if that’s a good bit of trolling, but so many other writers came to the same knee jerk conclusion, so I doubt it.)

Washington Post: “The move gives New England another dangerous tight end to pair with Rob Gronkowski, conjuring the latter’s fruitful on-field partnership with Aaron Hernandez”

Sporting News: “If all goes well, the 2016 season could be reminiscent of the days when Gronkowski and Hernandez, who hasn’t played since 2012 and is currently serving a life prison sentence for murder, combined for 2,237 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns during the 2011 season.”

Albert Breer: “Pats have long looked to fill Aaron Hernandez’s move-TE role. Martellus Bennett physically fits the bill better than anyone since Hernandez”


Jun 26, 2013; North Attleborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots former tight end Aaron Hernandez (left) stands with his attorney Michael Fee as he is arraigned in Attleboro District Court. Hernandez is charged with first degree murder in the death of Odin Lloyd. Mandatory Credit: The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports
Jun 26, 2013; North Attleborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots former tight end Aaron Hernandez (left) stands with his attorney Michael Fee as he is arraigned in Attleboro District Court. Hernandez is charged with first degree murder in the death of Odin Lloyd. Mandatory Credit: The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports /

It’s easy to do! Trust me, I get it, especially since reporters today seem to be under the gun to barf out a story about a deal the minute it breaks on Twitter, even if it’s just “SOURCE SAYS TEAM INTERESTED IN SPEAKING TO (insert player name here)”.

But seriously, stop it. Here is a list of everything Martellus Bennett and Aaron Hernandez have in common:

They both made the Pro Bowl as tight ends.

That’s it.

Here’s how they’re different and why Bennett being “the new Aaron Hernandez” is lazy and stupid.


There seem to be quite a few different sets of measurables for Martellus Bennett floating around, quite possibly due to his 2012 “I’m Not Fat” season, where he weighed in at 291 pounds and said it was all muscle and all but quoted “I’m Too Sexy” to the press. Anyway, ESPN has Bennett listed at 6’6’’ and 265 pounds, whereas Pro Football Reference has him at 6’7’’ and 248 pounds. says 6’6’’ and 273. Meanwhile, Aaron Hernandez is listed at 6’2’’ and 250 pounds on PFR, and 6’1’’ and 245 on ESPN still has all his stats listed, but not his measurements, for some reason. World Wide Leader in Not Listing Height of Serial Killers, HOLLA!

Either way, that’s a five-inch difference in height and between…three and almost thirty pounds in weight. That’s basically comparing Steph Curry (6’3’’) to LeBron James (6’8’’), height-wise. In terms of weight, any defensive back can surely tell you that bringing down those extra couple dozen pounds doesn’t make their job any easier. Just ask Sergio Brown, the Colts safety who Gronk “threw out of the club” last year.

That height advantage may not seem like that big of a deal, until you’re trying to, say, out-jump a 6’3’’ safety like Seattle’s Kam Chancellor on a fade route.

Put another way, Gronk and Bennett have almost identical measureables. Hernandez, stature-wise, was basically a slightly taller LeGarrette Blount.


Ok, so the post-game stat sheets are the only places where, at least in some senses, Bennett and Hernandez look at least a bit similar. Given that Bennett is 29 and Hernandez’s last season was in 2012, we can at least compare Bennett’s better seasons, most of which were 2012 and after anyway.

In his last four seasons, three with the Bears, one with the Giants, Martellus Bennett averaged 4.1 receptions per game in 2013, 5.6 in 2014, and 4.8 in 2015. Hernandez, in his two non-rookie seasons, averaged 5.6 receptions per game in 2011, and 5.1 in 2012.

How about the touchdown numbers?

2011: Bennett 0, Hernandez 7 (this was MB’s last season with the Cowboys)

2012: Bennett 5, Hernandez 5

2013: Bennett 5, Hernandez 0 (for obvious reasons)

2014: Bennett 6, Hernandez 0 (see above)

Point being, once their respective teams figured out both players were good mismatches in the end zone, they got the ball in red zone situations.

Pretty cool! Except, well, all that really means is that you’re one of the tight ends that scores the most touchdowns in the NFL. Check out the tight ends that scored lots of touchdowns last season:

Tyler Eifert – 13

Rob Gronkowski – 11

Jordan Reed – 11

Gary Barnidge – 10

Richard Rodgers – 8

Greg Olsen – 8

Ben Watson – 6

Delanie Walker – 6

Antonio Gates – 5

Zach Miller – 5

Kyle Rudolph – 5

Julius Thomas – 5

Very diverse group of dudes, no? You’ve got your old basketball players (Gates, Thomas), your more traditional tight ends that can block the snot out of anyone and run great routes (Walker, Watson, Olsen, Gronk), and plenty of guys like Zach Miller and Kyle Rudolph that can catch passes and block, but aren’t spectacular at either.

Think back a couple years ago to when Jimmy Graham was catching a touchdown every other quarter and slam-dunking on goalposts before the No Fun League told him to knock it off. Was anybody saying that the tight ends that replaced Graham – Josh Hill and eventually former Patriot Ben Watson – would be “The New Jimmy Graham WOO HOO!!1!”?

Of course not.

“But dude,” you say, “Bennett and Hernandez both average about 11 yards a reception!”

Congrats. So does almost every other tight end on that list.

In other words, saying Bennett = Hernandez just because they both caught a lot of mid-range throws and scored half a dozen touchdowns every year is stupid.


Here’s the deal: even if you buy the idea that the two guys’ production makes them basically the same player, the way both guys get their scores and yardage is anything but similar.

In fact, it’s so radically different that the only thing they have in common is that they end up in the end zone a lot. Let’s see how the very talented ex-Boston Globe writer Shalise Manza Young saw the Pats using Hernandez in her 2012 feature article.

“And then there is the Patriots’ other tight end, Aaron Hernandez, who can’t be defined by a position: He’s a tight end/receiver/fullback/running back.”

And this Rodney Harrison quote:

“Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison played against (Dallas) Clark, but he sees Hernandez as even more gifted, even more dangerous.

‘Obviously they’re both great players, but I think when you look at Aaron Hernandez, he’s a kid that they used in a lot of different roles last year — he played wide receiver, he played in the slot, he played tight end, he played some running back, and really showed his versatility,” Harrison said. “[There are] just so many different things he can do.’ “

More on Hernandez being a wild card in the Patriots offense:

“Last year, in his second NFL season, Hernandez played in 14 games and had 79 receptions for 910 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had five carries. In three playoff games, he had an impressive 19 catches, but also had eight carries. Perhaps Josh McDaniels’s return during the postseason as a coaching assistant may have had an influence in getting Hernandez the ball out of the backfield a little more.”

And finally, NFL film expert Greg Cosell:

“Hernandez is quite frankly a little bit tougher of a matchup problem for defenses than Gronk, even though Gronk might be a better player,” Cosell said. “Because Hernandez is a 245-pound hybrid tight end/wide receiver who can run. He’s a better athlete than Gronkowski, but he also weighs 30 pounds less. So how do you match up to Hernandez?”

And this is where the stat sheet that everyone was drooling over in the last section comes full circle: the numbers beyond “Yards Per Reception” and how many times both tight ends caught a ball in the end zone prove that the way the Pats were able to use Hernandez – effectively – was simply on another planet compared to what Martellus Bennett has done.

That’s not a knock – it’s a tremendously different skill set.

In 2010, Aaron Hernandez rushed – yes, rushed – three times for a whopping 47 yards. Building off his rookie year, in 2011, he had five carries for 45 yards. And in the 2011 postseason, when the Patriots made it all the way back to the Super Bowl before getting bounced by Big Blue again, the Pats had Hernandez carry the rock eight times for 70 yards. Oh, and he scored two rushing touchdowns.

You don’t have to be a stat dork to appreciate how ridiculous averaging about 10 yards PER CARRY is. That’s not just good, that’s CJ2k type stuff.

In his eight NFL seasons, Martellus Bennett hasn’t rushed the ball once.

Ok, but what about non-gadget plays? So Hernandez lined up in the backfield. Big freakin’ deal.

The best way for the stat sheet to preach on Young’s point about Hernandez being able to play in the slot (which plenty of tight ends can) and outside as a deep threat (which most tight ends don’t) is this:

In 2010 and 2011, Aaron Hernandez’s longest receptions were 46 yards, meaning that he had at least one 46-yard bomb in both seasons.

In his eight NFL seasons, Martellus Bennet has only caught a pass over 40 yards in one of them. To his credit, he’s had four seasons where his longest reception was in the thirties, but in two of those (2010 and 2012), his longest reception was 32 and 33 yards, respectively.

The end result? In their respective Pro Bowl seasons – 2011 for Hernandez and 2014 for Bennett – their yards from scrimmage looked damn near identical. Hernandez finished with 955 yards from scrimmage, and Martellus Bennett ended up with 916.

The ways they got those insane yardage totals, though (insane by tight end standards, anyway), as we saw, was completely different. While Martellus Bennett is clearly an excellent receiver and red-zone target, he’s also clearly more in the traditional tight-end mold. Line up next to the tackle or in the slot, get open between the seams, and serve as an emergency short-pass option. And, of course, use your massive stature to get open in the end zone.

Aaron Hernandez? Well, at the risk of sounding too nostalgic about a convicted murderer who might even have been a serial killer, he might’ve been the truest prototype for the oft-misused term “offensive weapon”, a la Percy Harvin.

The Conclusion

Let’s get this straight – Martellus Bennett checks off all the boxes to be wildly successful in Josh McDaniels’ offensive game plans. He’s a nasty, effective run blocker, has the hands and instincts to be a well-established middle-of-the-field target, and – like Gronk – is an absolute monster after the catch. Since 2013, according to ESPN Stats & Info, out of every tight end in the NFL, Gronk leads the league with 1,208 yards after the catch. Second place? Martellus Bennett, racking up a cool 1,066 yards AFTER he’s already caught the ball. Just like we saw this past season with players like Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and James White, the Patriots absolutely feasted when the YAC was flowing.

Next: Pats’ Ebner to join U.S. Olympic rugby team

But let’s knock it off with this Aaron Hernandez 2.0 business.

It’s this year’s version of saying every white receiver under 6’0’’ is the next Wes Welker.