One glaring issue with the New England Patriots last season was the absence of a physical tight end. When Rob Gronkowski retired no one stepped up to fill Gronk’s size 16 cleats. Belichick did not draft a tight end in 2019, and the only acquisition New England made to fill position was the signing of 38-year old Benjamin Watson.
Rob Gronkowski is irreplaceable, but New England will have to select at least one tight end in this year’s draft.
As of right now, Cole Kmet and Adam Trautman are regarded as the top two tight ends in this year’s draft. They will likely be gone by the end of the second round, which means the Patriots will miss out on the Notre Dame and Dayton products, as they do not have a second round pick this year. Belichick could always trade up, but there are other late round tight ends New England could grab by standing pat. There are also some tight ends available earlier in the draft that should be avoided.
Josiah Deguara – Cincinnati
The fifth year senior had a decent final two seasons as a Bearcat, hauling in 77 total receptions for 972 receiing yards with 12 TDs. Josiah Deguara will be a steal in the fifth round, as he is the most balanced tight end after Cole Kmet.
Deguara did not impress at the Senior Bowl or NFL Combine, but his tape tells a different story. His biggest strength is his ability to block, as he can take on defensive lineman in the pass blocking and run blocking game and stand his ground more often than not.
He will occasionally be overpowered, but he does a great job at holding on just long enough for a play to develop. Deguara can act as a 6th offensive lineman at times, as he is great at blocking despite being only 245 lb. and 6’3″. NFL defensive lineman will pose a bigger challenge than d-lineman in the AAC, but he will prove more than capable after getting reps under his belt.
Deguara’s strength will be his blocking ability, but he can still run routes and haul in passes. His lack of speed will prevent him from running through the seams, but he will certainly run great short routes, while also being an excellent target in the redzone. Deguara also does a great job at clearing out space in the passing game, so he would be a great pairing with Julian Edelman.
Hunter Bryant – Washington
Hunter Bryant is one of the best receiving tight ends in this year’s draft, as evident by his 52 reception and 825 receiving yard Junior season as a Husky. Bryant would be a major improvement at tight end for New England, but he would not be a 3-down TE, as he is not the best blocker.
Bryant really struggles in the run blocking game, as he almost looks lost at times. He is hesitant to go out and engage in blocks, as he does this stutter step in front of a defender instead of initiating contact.
Defensive linemen overpower him, so it would not be ideal to have him line up on the line of scrimmage. He can block linebackers, but he looks a lot more comfortable when he ascends to the second level to go after defensive backs.
While not the best blocker, he excels at running routes and catching the ball. Bryant does a great job at settling against the zone to create plenty of space for an open pass. He is also great at running deep routes and setting himself in motion pre-snap.
One of his better attributes that will not show up in the box score is his ability to sell the play action as well as screen plays. Bryant is a solid receiving tight end that New England could pick up in the 4th round.
Thaddeus Moss – LSU
This is a guy who appears to be at the top of a lot of draft boards, but I expect him to fall come draft day. As the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss, Thaddeus Moss’ name carries a lot of weight, but it should not be indicative of his skills.
At LSU Moss lined up a lot more as an H-back and receiver rather than a tight end. Compared to other tight ends, his blocking is below average, as he could not consistently block linebackers. Moss will succeed at blocking defensive backs, but he should not be assigned to block defensive linemen.
The linebackers in the NFL are a lot bigger and stronger than the ones he faced in college, so he will likely commit a fair number of holding penalties when blocking. He also relies on chop blocks a little too often, but is not too successful at them.
The one area he is good at is chip blocking. He will temporarily delay a pass rusher’s route to the QB before being sent out for a pass. There should be an offensive lineman ready to pick up the chipped rusher, however.
Another issue with Moss is that he is not all that great of a receiver. He struggles at creating separation for himself, so he will not get himself open the majority of the time. Moss will struggle against man coverage in the NFL, but he should get open on curl and flat routes against zone defense.
Ball security is certainly another area he needs to improve on. He does not brace for hits that well, so if a defender delivers a shot towards his body while he is running, he is going to cough up the ball.
This is a guy that fans will clamor for because of his last name, but the Patriots need to pass on him because he will not offer anything that they do not already have.
Albert Okwuegbunam – Missouri
Albert Okwuegbunam is another guy who is considered a top five TE in this year’s draft, but like Moss he should fall in the draft. Okwuegbunam’s stats are not very impressive, as he totaled 98 receptions for 1,187 yards in three seasons at Missouri.
The Missouri product is not much of a blocker, meaning he will not be a three down TE. His main issue is that he struggles to find a block, especially on screen plays. He can block linebackers, but he should not be relied on to do so. On the other hand, defensive linemen will overpower him, meaning he will have to line up outside rather than on the line.
You should not expect him to run many deep or seam routes, as his specialty is out, dig, and drag routes. He does have a quick release at the line of scrimmage, and is tough to bring down once he has the ball in his hands. One area he does need to improve on is working back to the ball. He lets the ball come to him, meaning DBs will have the opportunity to jump the route and take the ball away.
Okwuegbunam is another guy the Patriots need to pass on. Josiah Deguara will be available in the later rounds, and he has the potential to be a consistent three down TE. Hunter Bryant is not much of a blocker, but his receiving prowess should make him the 4th TE on the board after Kmet, Trautman, and Deguara.
Featured image via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports