The New England Patriots are on the NFL draft clock in a few days. The waiting and speculation will be over. It will be time to have a great draft.
One bright spot for this usually rather poor drafting team is that it can go anywhere positionally and be fine, a nice place to be.
You still have to select the right players though, where the rubber meets the road. Mock drafts have speculated this and that about possible New England Patriots picks in the draft.
None of them has much more of a chance of prognosticating Patriots picks than Punxsutawney Phil has in predicting the weather. Maybe less. They always surprise you.
Nevertheless, it’s fun speculating and one position of need and interest for the Patriots is tight end.
New England Patriots need tight ends
The New England Patriots are thin at tight end. They traded unproductive Jonnu Smith and replaced him with Mike Gesicki. They improved. Yet, they lack any depth after Gesicki and incumbent, Hunter Henry.
Additionally, both Henry and Gesicki are out of contract next season. The New England Patriots need to draft a tight end.
Mock draft speculation about the top pick centers on positions other than tight end, so why is drafting a tight end in the top rounds not a bad idea?
Tight ends have traditionally been a major part of the New England Patriots offenses. From Ben Coates to Rob Gronkowski to former first-round picks, Ben Watson and Daniel Graham, the team likes tight ends.
Popular choices in this draft range from Pro Football Focus’ third-ranked tight end, pass-catcher Dalton Kincaid of Utah to gigantic Georgia tight end, Darnell Washington at 6’7″ tall and 264 pounds, is PFF’s fifth-ranked.
Washington is more of a blocker and second-round value. Kincaid is likely a first as a top pass-catcher.
PFF.com has this to say about their third-rated tight end,
"Kincaid led the entire FBS with 70 catches for 890 yards during the regular season. And he did so operating mainly from traditional receiver splits, with 55.1 percent of his snaps coming from the slot…Kincaid will run crisp routes and haul in anything within reach."
Like a great wide receiver, the idea of taking a tight end is intriguing. They can add to an offense as we saw with Gronk for a decade. But they can be risky high in the draft too.
In 2020, the Patriots sought to shore up the position and traded up twice to draft two tight ends in the third round, Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. Both flopped. Buyer beware.
New England Patriots can afford the risks
As thin as the New England Patriots remain at tight end, drafting a top tight end early is not to be scoffed at. A tight end who can block and catch the ball is a tremendous asset.
Too often, however, they do one or the other but not both. For a talent who can do both like Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, you’d need to draft him in the first round. Is he worth the investment? He may just be.
Nfl.com says this about Mayer,
"He’s built for in-line duty and was an extension of the Notre Dame offensive line at times. His feet are a little heavy getting into and through his routes, but he has the hand strength and contact balance to win heavily contested catches on the first two levels. Mayer might need to polish his route running to become a high-volume target, but he’s a safe pick and will be a good pro who can become a plus player as a run blocker and pass catcher."
“Plus player as a run blocker and pass catcher” is the operative phrase. So is it way off base to think of a tight end, even the first round? No.
Landing a top talent like Mayer or Kincaid in the first or Washington in the second round would be quite nice to see, frankly. After all, who wouldn’t like to see a top tight end join the ranks?