Patriots

Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith both make ESPN's top 10 tight ends ranking

Patriots

The New England Patriots had the worst tight end production of any NFL team in 2020, and barring any major injuries, the opposite could be true in the upcoming 2021 campaign.

The Patriots identified tight end as a roster weakness entering free agency and spent huge money to bring in the top two players on the market at that position -- Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.

Henry signed a three-year, $37.5 million deal, while Smith inked a four-year, $50 million contract.

Where do these two players rank among the league's best tight ends? 

ESPN over the last few weeks has been doing its top 10 player rankings at each position. The tight end rankings were published Thursday by Jeremy Fowler. The ranking is determined by voting from execs, coaches and players, in addition to film review and other factors.

Henry came in at No. 7, one spot behind Dallas Goedert of the Philadelphia Eagles and one position ahead of Evan Engram of the New York Giants.

"He's a young, more dynamic version of Kyle Rudolph," an exec from an NFC team told Fowler about Henry.

Henry tallied a career-high 60 receptions for the Los Angeles Chargers last season. He also posted 613 receiving yard and four touchdowns.

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Smith was ranked at No. 9 on ESPN's list. 

"You can use him a gazillion different ways," an NFL coordinator told Fowler about Smith. "Blocking at all levels, jet sweeps, motion, and he's improved as a receiver."

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick places immense value on versatility, and the quote above highlights the different skills Smith will bring New England. 

Patriots tight ends tallied 18 receptions last season, and Ryan Izzo led the way with 13. Henry and Smith tallied 101 receptions combined last year. It wouldn't be surprising if they combine for 90-plus receptions in their first year with the Patriots. New England has plenty of experience using two-tight ends sets on offense.