Bill Belichick has long had an infatuation with tight ends, and the New England Patriots found perhaps the best player in the history of the position in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Rob Gronkowski, drafted No. 42 overall, is the second biggest draft steal in franchise history — after Tom Brady, of course. Gronkowski was the 10th tight end Belichick drafted since coming to the Patriots in 2000.
— Gronkowski performed above average in every NFL Scouting Combine drill other than the short shuttle. That’s impressive at 264 pounds.
— The Patriots clearly value the three-cone, especially when it comes to selecting smaller “flex” tight ends.
— Lee Smith, a blocking specialist, is the least athletic tight end the Patriots have selected. He was cut after training camp during his rookie season and never played a game with the Patriots. He’s still in the NFL as a member of the Oakland Raiders.
— The Patriots appear to prefer above average measurements in the 40-yard dash, three-cone, short shuttle, bench press and vertical leap.
— The Patriots have only selected three players with below average 40 times.
— The Patriots have only drafted two players with below average three-cone drills. They’ve also drafted just two players with below average vertical leaping ability.
The Patriots could use afford to add another tight end to either complement or back up Gronkowski through free agency or the 2016 draft. Free-agent tight ends Jermaine Gresham, Ladarius Green, Clay Harbor, Coby Fleener and Vernon Davis fit the Patriots’ standards at the position. We’ll find out which draft-eligible tight ends fit after this week’s combine.
NESN.com will go position by position to analyze the Patriots’ draft trends prior to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. Look through our cornerback, running back, linebacker, wide receiver, defensive end, offensive line and defensive tackle trends.
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