This isn't an ideal offseason for Pats to find Gronkowski's successor

This isn't an ideal offseason for Pats to find Gronkowski's successor

Bill Belichick has historically prioritized the tight end position, but will he be able to improve the Patriots' group in the most foggy offseason the Pats have had at the position in years? 

Rob Gronkowski is tweeting about god knows what after reportedly considering retirement last training camp. Dwayne Allen wasn't good last season. Martellus Bennett could also retire or spend next season elsewhere. 

So, now would be a logical time for the Patriots to go after tight ends. Yet this draft class is not considered great at the position. Furthermore, there are no stars at the position set to be free agents, unless you're willing to bank on someone like Tyler Eifert staying healthy. 

But let's focus on the draft for now. Belichick loves drafting tight ends. He's taken 12 of them over the years as Patriots coach, including the greatest to ever play the position in Gronkowski. 

When looking through those 12 picks, however, it's pretty to easy to separate the good from the bad.

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The good: The tight ends drafted in the first two rounds (Gronkowski, Daniel Graham, Benjamin Watson). 

The bad: Every other tight end drafted by Belichick in New England, with the exception of Aaron Hernandez. 

Belichick has drafted nine tight ends for the Patriots after the second round. Exactly two of them have recorded even a single regular-season catch for the Pats: Hernandez, who was a star but obviously fell to the fourth round for character concerns, and 2006 third-round pick David Thomas. 

Thomas' best season as a Patriot? An 11-reception, 159-yard rookie campaign. He spent parts of three seasons with the Pats before being traded to New Orleans and finishing his career there. 

So for as much as the Patriots like drafting tight ends, they're only good at it when they're picking from the very best prospects at the position higher in the draft. Graham, Watson and Gronkowski were all the second tight ends off the board in their respective drafts. 

This year's class, as mentioned above, is considered unspectacular. South Carolina's Hayden Hurst is the only tight end believed to be a potential first-round pick, but he might be more of a second-round prospect. Mock drafts (which are stupid, but gosh they're fun) are mostly bereft of tight ends in the first. 

Mike Mayock ranks South Dakota State's Dallas Goedert, Penn State's Mike Gesicki, Oklahoma's Mark Andrews and Washington's Will Dissly behind Hurst to round out his top five at the position. 

Tom E. Curran likes Goedert and Stanford's Dalton Schultz as potential fits for the Patriots. Goedert could be a fit with one of the team's second-round picks, but he'd need some grooming. One of the knocks on the player is that he isn't a very polished route-runner or blocker. Another is the lack of competition faced in college. Still, he's got good size (6-foot-5, 255 pounds), hands and is expected to run well. 

At any rate, unless the Patriots are gaga for Hurst -- which is certainly a possibility given that they've got two picks in the vicinity of where he's expected to come off the board -- they won't be dealing with the caliber of prospect with whom they've had success in the past. The Patriots need a young tight end (or two). Getting one that will stick might not be so easy this year. 



Brady to Oprah on Belichick: 'We don't agree on absolutely everything'

Brady to Oprah on Belichick: 'We don't agree on absolutely everything'

Most of the highlights of Tom Brady's sit-down with Oprah Winfrey were released here and here last week before the interview was broadcast Sunday morning on Winfrey's OWN channel.

Also, in the hour-long interview, the Patriots quarterback was asked by Winfrey, amid an offseason filled with reports of tension between him and coach Bill Belichick, “Is there something going on with you and Belichick?”

“Umm, no. I mean, I love him," Brady said. "I love that he is an incredible coach, mentor for me. He’s pushed me in a lot of ways. Like everything, we don’t agree on absolutely everything, but that’s relationships.”

When Winfrey asked about his "separate training place" - the TB12 Sports Therapy Center next to Gillette Stadium that Brady and business partner and trainer Alex Guerrero have run for five years - Brady said he wouldn't characterize it as separate.

“No, I wouldn’t say that,” said Brady, who stayed away from Patriots voluntary workouts this spring, has worked out on his own with teammates, but did report for mandatory mini-camp June 5-7. “I probably do some of my own techniques a little differently than the rest of the team. The team, I would say, like most teams, is very systematic in their approach. What I learned, I guess, is different than some of the things that are systematic, but that work for me.”

Brady said he's talked about those techniques with Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Belichick restricted Guerrero's access to the Patriots sideline and team flights last season. 

“It’s nothing that I don’t talk about with my coach and owner,” Brady said. “It is what I want to do and is what I need to be the best player I can be. Hopefully, you can support that.”

More highlights from the Brady interview: 

On why he gave up his court fight in the Deflategate case and served his NFL-imposed four-game suspension:

"Too much anxiety," Brady said. "And I realized I couldn't win." Watch that clip here: 


How this Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in February was a little easier to take than his others, watch here: 



James Harrison on Patriots' culture: 'I didn't have a problem with it’

James Harrison on Patriots' culture: 'I didn't have a problem with it’

As adversaries and former players openly wonder if the football culture in Foxboro is "fun" enough, recently-retired Pittsburgh Steelers legend James Harrison is asking, why does it matter?

In an interview with CBS Sports Network earlier this week, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year reflected on the final stop of his 15-year career, the Patriots, who signed him late in the 2017 regular season after Pittsburgh released him, as insurance for New England as they geared up for their run to Super Bowl LII.

The biggest takeaway from his time with the Patriots?

"Discipline. That’s the big thing," the five-time Pro Bowler said. "They’re not going to ask you to do anything that is outside of what you’re capable of doing. And it’s, you learn the system and you go out there and you play it. And like I said, it's very regimented, so if you’re a guy that’s not used to discipline, you’re not going to like it there."

Harrison said it was even stricter than his years with former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, with whom he won his first Super Bowl in 2006.

"Cowher wasn't as regimented as Bill [Belichick] was," Harrison said. "Like I say, I didn’t have a problem with it. You know, I enjoyed my time there, you know, I thanked them for the opportunity they gave me to continue to play."

Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson has repeatedly mocked the Patriots since his team them in Super Bowl LII, calling them "arrogant" and a "fear-based organization", even telling the Pardon My Take podcast, "I'd much rather have fun and win a Super Bowl than be miserable and win five Super Bowls."

Meanwhile, 49ers defensive end Cassius Marsh, who was released after eight games with the Pats in 2017, says he hated his time in New England and didn't have fun, telling the San Francisco Chronicle, "I confronted [Belichick] about all the things that were going on. I won't get into detail, but it was B.S. things they were doing. It just wasn't a fan."