Aaron Hernandez, Tight end
TIGHT ENDS do not typically flourish with the Patriots. Of the 16 who have played for Bill Belichick during his 10 seasons in New England, none ever had a better receiving season than Ben Watson in 2006. That year Watson had 634 receiving yards on 49 catches—modest numbers that rank 66th and tied for 86th, respectively, on the decade's list of single-season performances by a tight end.
But Belichick longs to find a tight end who can play a more integral role in his passing game. In April he drafted two who have that talent: Arizona's Rob Gronkowski, with the 10th pick of the second round, and Florida's Aaron Hernandez, with the 15th pick of the fourth. While the immense (6' 6", 265 pounds) Gronkowski is the more developed all-around player, it is the 6' 2", 245 pound Hernandez who even at the callow age of 20 could quickly become the pass-catching threat that Tom Brady has never had at the position. Hernandez won the John Mackey Award as college football's best tight end last season, when he had 68 receptions for 850 yards and five touchdowns as Tim Tebow's top target. He fell to the fourth round only because he tested positive for marijuana—Hernandez says only once, though NFL sources say he tested positive several times.
Hernandez gives New England a receiver who can take some of the load off slot man Wes Welker. "He's got a lot of skill out there—a lot of quickness for his size, and he gets open against man-to-man coverage," says Welker. "Blocking's going to be a key thing for him. We can't have a tight end who can't block out on the field. But he's been really impressive."