The Patriots have a situation on their hands.
Their future Hall of Fame tight end hasn't yet popped his head in on the start of the team's offseason training program, and after making almost $11 million on an incentive-laden deal last season, it would come as no surprise if he would like to see his $8 million base salary for 2018 get bumped up. He's supposedly contemplating retirement.
- TOM E. CURRAN - Gronk situation reflects bigger issues facing Pats
Though Gronkowski is still at the top of his game, his waffling means it's time for the Patriots to consider re-investing at his position. Though the upcoming draft isn't loaded with surefire Day 1 tight end options, the Day 2 crop is loaded. That could be where Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio strike, hoping to land their next do-it-all threat.
- PERRY'S MOCK DRAFT 2.0 - New pick for Patriots means a new draft plan
Before we get to some names, let's lay out what the Patriots like at this spot. They've drafted 13 tight ends under Belichick, and some trends have emerged. Size, obviously, is important. The "prototype" falls in the 6-foot-4 range and a shade over 250 pounds. Big hands (about 10 inches) are also preferred. Athleticism matters, too. Quick 40 times (4.7-second range) and three-cone drills (7.0-second range) will help a player find his way onto the Patriots roster, as will an explosive vertical (35 inches or thereabouts).
The Patriots probably won't find another Gronkowski any time soon. But by those parameters, they'll find a solid athlete with requisite size to handle the myriad tasks they ask their tight ends to execute.
- Part 1: QBs - Rosen, Lauletta check plenty of boxes
PROTOTYPES IN RANGE
DALLAS GOEDERT, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE, 6-5, 256 POUNDS
Goedert didn't run the 40-yard dash at the combine or at his pro day, leaving teams to either have him run privately or . . . make their best guess as to how fast he is. The issue? He played a lower level of competition so while he looks like a dominant force on tape, some of those plays have to be taken with a grain of salt. Goedert's height, weight, hand size (10 inches) and arm length (34 inches) give him the makeup of a true dual-threat tight end in the Patriots system. And though we don't know his 40, his other testing numbers -- 35-inch vertical, 121-inch broad, 7.02-second three-cone -- indicate he's an explosive and agile athlete. Gronkowski was bigger (6-6, 264) and tested slightly below Goedert when it comes to those measures (7.18 three-cone, 33.5-inch vertical, 119-inch broad). They did the same number of bench reps at the combine (23).
MIKE GESICKI, PENN STATE, 6-5, 247
Gesicki's build gives him the look of a bigger receiver rather than a tight end capable of handling in-line blocking duties. The Patriots have taken players in the 245-pound range, but they've been more compact tight ends like Daniel Graham (6-3, 248), Garrett Mills (6-1, 241) and Aaron Hernandez (6-2, 245). Unless Gesicki can pack more weight onto his frame, he'd probably fall into the "move" tight end category. Wherever he ends up, his rare athleticism will help. Gesicki's 4.54-second 40 would be the second-fastest among tight ends drafted by Belichick in New England (Ben Watson had a 4.53). Gesicki had a blazing three-cone (6.76 seconds) as well, which was almost a tenth of a second faster than Hernandez's. Explosiveness? Gesicki has you covered there, too. His 129-inch broad and 41-.5-inch vertical break the mold on typical tight end thresholds. Gesicki's frame is a question mark when it comes to his Patriots fit, but he checks every other physical marker the Patriots typically draft, including hand size (10 1/8 inches) and arm length (34 inches).
IAN THOMAS, INDIANA, 6-4, 259
Thomas hasn't received much hype leading up to the draft in part because he was injured last season and had just two years at Indiana. But physically he has it all: height, weight, length (34 1/8-inch arms) and hand size (11 1/2 inches). Athletically, he hits all Patriots marks and then some with a 4.74-second 40, a 36-inch vertical, 123-inch broad and a 4.20 short shuttle. His three-cone drill is a little slower than where they typically like (7.15 seconds), but it was still more than two tenths faster than Watson's. If the Patriots are willing to mold him into more of a technician when it comes to his blocking and route-running, he could end up as a true multi-purpose tight end in their system.
IMPERFECT BUT INTRIGUING
HAYDEN HURST, SOUTH CAROLINA, 6-4, 250
Where to start here? When compared to some other tight ends Belichick drafted to New England, Hurst compares favorably. His 4.67-second 40-yard is a hair faster than Gronkowski's and a hair slower than Hernandez's. His 1.63-second 10-yard split was actually better than that of Hernandez (1.65) and 2006 third-rounder David Thomas (1.64). He showed some explosion in the broad jump (120 inches), recording a better distance than Graham (118), Thomas (109) and Hernandez (111), all of whom measured similarly at their respective combines. But Hurst's vertical (31 1/2 inches) and change-of-direction testing (7.19-second three-cone, 4.37 short shuttle) didn't wow anyone. He's also a little undersized in terms of what the Patriots typically draft (32 1/8-inch arms). He may be a first-round pick, but judging by Belichick's history, that might be a little early for the Patriots.
MARK ANDREWS, OKLAHOMA, 6-5, 256
Andrews is an interesting prospect because he has a good combination of size and speed (4.58-second 40). His change-of-direction and explosiveness, however, don't necessarily indicate he's an ideal Patriots fit. His 7.34-second three-cone drill won't help him, his 31-inch vertical was unimpressive, his broad jump (113 inches) was about average in terms of what the Patriots have drafted in the past, and his 4.38-second short-shuttle was not blazing. Those aren't crippling numbers. The Patriots have drafted worse athletes. But Andrews is expected to go in the first couple of rounds, which may be a little rich for Belichick.
DALTON SCHULTZ, STANFORD, 6-5, 244
Schultz is another long-but-light prospect at the position. And his athletic testing numbers don't necessarily match up with the number in the weight column. His 7.00-second three-cone is good, and his 120-inch broad jump indicates there's some explosion there. But his vert (32 inches), short-shuttle (4.40 seconds) and 40 time (4.75 seconds) are average or worse. For someone with his build, the Patriots might prefer to see a better athlete. His arm length (31 1/4 inches) and hand size (9 1/4 inches) aren't ideal, but he was a two-year starter in a pro-style offense and he's thought to be one of the best blockers at his position in the class. Those elements of Schultz's game may get the Patriots interested in the middle rounds. Wisconsin's Troy Fumagali is a similar player in terms of his willingness as a blocker and his size (6-5, 247). He might be a better fit athletically, but he hasn't been able to do any athletic testing during the pre-draft process because of injury.
DURHAM SMYTHE, NOTRE DAME, 6-5, 253
Smythe has the kind of experience as an in-line player that the Patriots would appreciate. And he comes from a program they respect. But when it comes to the measurables, Smythe profiles as a less athletic than a typical Patriots draft pick. Smythe's 40 time (4.81), vertical (31 inches), broad jump (110 inches), bench (18 reps), and three-cone (7.17 seconds) are all below average compared against other Patriots tight ends drafted since 2000. His hand size (9 1/4 inches) and arm length (31 3/4 inches) are also less than ideal. Smythe's tape may earn him a job on Day 3 of the draft, but his athleticism would put him on the outer edges of the range of player the Patriots have drafted in the past.
WILL DISSLY, WASHINGTON, 6-4, 262
Man, if you want a blocking tight end, this seems to be your draft. Dissly falls into the same category. And from a Patriots perspective, he looks the part of an in-line type. Athletically . . . that's another story. Dissly's vertical (28 inches), broad jump (111 inches), short-shuttle (4.4 seconds) and 40 time (4.87) aren't going to rocket him up draft boards. His three-cone is solid for someone his size (7.07 seconds), and his hands (9 3/4 inches) and arms (33 1/4 inches) meet the mark for the Patriots. Still, he's a Day 3 choice.