Daniel Fells Will Add Quality Depth, Versatility Behind Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez in New England

Daniel Fells Will Add Quality Depth, Versatility Behind Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez in New EnglandFOXBORO, Mass. — Daniel Fells will add valuable depth to the Patriots' crop of tight ends, which had a loaded depth chart at the top but needed someone of his caliber to strengthen the group.

Fells referred to himself as a chameleon, and there's some credence to that. The 6-foot-4, 272-pounder has more of a background as a pass catcher, but he has worked diligently to improve in the blocking aspect, too.

For instance, Fells caught a career-best 41 passes in 2010, when quarterback Sam Bradford had a strong rookie season. But with the Broncos in 2011, Fells was the primary tight end for the top-ranked rushing offense in the NFL.

It's unclear how many snaps Fells can see with the Patriots, who obviously have Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez at the position. Yet, Fells' presence gives the Patriots a reliable third tight end that they lacked throughout the vast majority of 2011.

That depth will be useful if Gronkowski or Hernandez succumb to an injury. Obviously, the Patriots struggled badly when Gronkowski was hobbled during the Super Bowl, and Hernandez has missed a pair of games in each of the last two seasons. While Hernandez returned to the lineup quicker than expected each time, it took an extra week or two for him to regain his explosion and valuable cutting ability.

There's also the question of wear and tear, as Gronkowski and Hernandez rarely left the field last season. Maybe it played a detrimental role. Maybe it didn't. But the chance to catch a breather will help them down the road at some point.

Of course, Fells' addition will give the Patriots more opportunities to spread Hernandez into the slot, which will continue to advance the dynamics of the offense.

"They do things right," Fells said of the Patriots' offense. "From an offensive standpoint, they go out there, and they put up points. They find the open man. It's not just about one player. You have two good tight ends. There's not a lot of teams that use both tight ends and get them all kinds of catches. There's always just one guy that usually stands out, and you have a bunch of players out there that stand out in this offense."

Fells visited the Patriots in 2010 and said he was "real close" to signing with New England at that time. Coincidentally, the Patriots' veteran addition at tight end that offseason was Alge Crumpler, who served as Fells' mentor during his first season and a half with the Falcons.

Crumpler taught Fells about the inner workings of the NFL, and he also played a role in Fells' development as a blocker. While the marriage between the Patriots and Fells didn't work out in 2010, he's become a more well-rounded player over the last two seasons, so things might have actually worked out for the best for both sides, at least in terms of 2012 and beyond.

"I know that Bill [Belichick] is the type of guy who finds ways to keep defenses on their toes or keep them back on their heels," Fells said. "[Defenses] don't really know what to expect, don't really know what's going on. He's an innovator in that sense."

Of course, Fells can help the offense in that regard. Even as the third tight end on the depth chart, Fells will serve an important role in New England.

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

Photo via Twitter/Field Yates

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