Patriots

Patriots have backed themselves into a corner at tight end

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Patriots have backed themselves into a corner at tight end

Forty tight ends have been drafted since 2016.

The Patriots have taken one – Ryan Izzo from Florida State with the 250th overall pick last year. He was the 15th tight end drafted.

Even with the sand running out of Rob Gronkowski’s career hourglass, the Patriots spent their picks on three defensive backs (including the departed Cyrus Jones in the second round of 2016), four linebackers from whom they’ve gotten a total of 47 games played (44 from Elandon Roberts) and three offensive tackles — none of whom have played a regular-season snap.

Hey, but a lot of those guys got hurt! Indeed they did. Productive careers may still await Isaiah Wynn, Duke Dawson, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Christian Sam. Godspeed Antonio Garcia. But the point is, the Patriots have been fiddling around at other spots while the tight end position burns.

Seven of the drafted tight ends last year had 20 or more catches, and four had more than 30, led by the Jets' Chris Herndon and Carolina’s Ian Thomas. They were both fourth-round picks. The 2017 crop included three first-rounders, Evan Engram of the Giants and Tampa’s O.J. Howard. They have 257 receptions between them. The most productive pass-catching tight end from that draft is George Kittle, a fifth-rounder from Iowa who’s made 131 catches for 1,892 yards.

In 2016, there were no first-round tight ends but San Diego’s Hunter Henry (81 catches, 1,057 yards in 2016 and ’17) and Atlanta’s Austin Hooper (139 catches, 1,457 yards in three years) were both third-round picks.

There have been many tight ends talented enough to produce at the NFL level that New England passed on drafting.

Meanwhile, the non-Gronk production at tight end from Jacob Hollister, Dwayne Allen and Martellus Bennett over the past three seasons combined is 72 catches for 856 yards. And Bennett contributed 55 of the catches and 701 of the yards.

Amid this crisis, the Patriots have struggled to three Super Bowls appearances, winning only two. Yeah, yeah, yeah, fine.

And the team has added 26-year-old Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, who is six feet, five inches and 262 pounds of untapped potential after catching passes from the likes of Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick (the bad Jets version).

It’s time for them to dive headlong into the position and Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said on Quick Slants the Podcast this week that – even though they’ve waited – this is a very good time to do it.

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After discussing the deep but seemingly not elite wide receiver crop, Dimitroff said, “When we’re talking about the tight ends, that’s kinda flipped. Usually tight ends are going to be in that spot where they are seconds and thirds but there are a number of (good) tight ends.

“I think there will be potentially two in the first round and then there’s another group that will go in the second round,” he added. “That’s never the way it used to be. You used to be able to find a tight end in the third round, so this is a good group.”

The consensus top two are T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant from Iowa. We’ve done much reporting on them. There’s also Irv Smith from Alabama and Jace Sternberger from Texas A&M then Kahale Warring and Dawson Knox from San Diego State and Ole Miss respectively.

The Patriots are going to find a tight end. Maybe more than one. And they will get Izzo back and maybe he makes strides. Meanwhile, Hollister is a good pass-catcher; he just hasn’t stayed healthy enough to make an impact and gain trust.

But the fact remains it hasn’t been a priority position in the draft for New England. And that’s not just in the past three seasons, when a lot of good tight ends came into the league, but going back to 2014 which is the draft following the arrest and release of Aaron Hernandez. Izzo and A.J. Derby are the only tight ends they’ve drafted since 2014.

Bennett, Allen and Scott Chandler are the only veteran tight ends who’ve come in and caught passes.  

Now they need to nail it.

Click here for Phil Perry's Mock NFL Draft 5.0>>>>

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Prosecutors' appeal in Kraft case won't be heard before Sept. 4

Prosecutors' appeal in Kraft case won't be heard before Sept. 4

Prosecutors' appeal of the Florida judge's decision excluding videotape evidence in Patriots owner Robert Kraft's solicitation of prostitution case won't be heard until at least Sept. 4, meaning the case likely won't be resolved until after the NFL season begins.

On Tuesday, Judge Leonard Hanser agreed to allow the case to run through the appeals process before it goes to trial. Last week, Hanser ruled two videos that police say show Kraft paying for sex when he visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, in January can't be used as evidence in a trial. The Palm Beach County State Attorney is seeking to have that ruling overturned.

Kraft issued a public apology after the arrest and has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of solicitation. The Patriots owner also faces discipline from the NFL but the appeal and subsequent delay in the trial and resolution of the case could put that on hold as well.

The Patriots open their season and will raise their sixth Super Bowl championship banner Sunday night, Sept. 8, against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium. 

At a press conference in March, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about the Kraft case and said, "The Personal Conduct Policy applies to everybody. Commissioners, owners, executives, players, coaches. And it will be applied to everybody. But it will be done after we get all the facts. When we have all the information, we'll be fair and smart about it. That's what we'll do."

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Tom Brady reflects on making 'Tom vs. Time' after winning Emmy

Tom Brady reflects on making 'Tom vs. Time' after winning Emmy

Tom Brady has had his fair share of challenges on the field, but one of the biggest challenges of his 19-year career came off of it.

"Tom vs. Time," a six-episode docuseries that centered around Brady's life during the 2017 season, was released in January 2018. On Monday, the series won a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Serialized Sports Documentary.

Brady took to Instagram on Tuesday and opened up about what went into the making of "Tom vs. Time."

Read below:

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When I was approached by @gchopra at ROS, Facebook and @brawitz to explore this opportunity, it was a bit nerve-racking. This was so outside of the things I have always done and I wasn’t sure if we could pull it off. The reality was, before the filming began and even during the filming, it was on and off again at least 5 times. There were a lot of moving parts on all sides and it took a lot of work at every level to pull it together and have it ready for viewing 16 months ago. The Patriots had an amazing season of many highs and lows that added humanity to the story. And it was so much fun to have my family and friends and all the people who support me be a part of it. I couldn’t have been happier with the final product and people getting to see another side of me besides what most people see every Sunday. I can be a very focused and driven person on the field (and off too), but as most of my friends and teammates know, what you saw is just plain me. I can’t thank you enough for going on the journey with me. You all have made it all worth it, and to win an Emmy highlights the incredible work of everyone involved — the @religionofsports team, the @shadowlion team, @facebook, the @patriots, @nflfilms @tb12sports and my family, friends and teammates. Thank you. I love you all!

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It's clear filming the series was a daunting process, but ultimately it was all worth it for the six-time Super Bowl champion as he adds yet another accolade to his résumé.

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