New England Patriots: Tight Ends to Target in the First 3 Rounds

Given the recent tight end departures the Patriots have experienced, and how valued the position is in their offensive game-plan, it’s not out of the question to think they could address the role in the first round. Future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski is going to leave behind a massive void in the offense, as he was one of the best red zone targets of all time. In a move that was no surprise, the Patriots cut back-up tight end Dwayne Allen early into the new season. With next to nothing on the roster, here are some targets the Patriots could set their sights upon in the first three rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft.

First Round

Irv Smith Jr, Alabama – Everybody knows that Bill Belichick loves drafting players from Alabama. For a bulky tight end, he has few limitations when it comes to running routes. Smith Jr. can line up next to the tackles or out wide, and has the smarts to succeed in the NFL. He doesn’t have the height that the new prototypical tight end has, but Smith Jr. is a natural athlete who can go as high as his future coach wants to take him.

Noah Fant, Iowa – The most talented receiver out of the top tight ends in the draft, Fant is a mixture of the speed of Aaron Hernandez and the size of Rob Gronkowski. Fant was paired with T.J. Hockenson at Iowa, who is currently projected to also be one of the first tight ends off of the board. It will be interesting to see how the two fare without the presence of the other around. While Fant has the size to block and chip, he is much more comfortable running routes and working in open space. Whatever team drafts him will most likely use him in a Travis Kelce/Trey Burton type role.

Second Round

Caleb Wilson, UCLA – Just like Fant, Wilson is a glorified receiver in a tight end’s body. Wilson has struggled with blocking and with fundamentals, but he is 6-foot-4 and one of the fastest tight ends in the class. With a large wingspan and other impressive measurable, Wilson could be a high-risk, high-reward pick for a coach who’s willing to gamble an early round pick on him.

Josh Oliver, San Jose State – Equipped with modest size and speed, Oliver is one of the more complete tight ends in the draft. That being said, he doesn’t particularly dazzle when it comes to route running or finding open space after the catch. Oliver certainly is a capable receiver, but compared to the modern tight end that needs to be able to block as a fullback and catch as a receiver, Oliver doesn’t fit the build. He could fit in at a complementary role in New England, as he works best finding openings after he has chipped.

Third Round

Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M – One of the fan favorites at the position this draft, Sternberger has had flashes of brilliance. The big body tight end has a large frame and can move from the line of scrimmage. He did the most of his work in the end zone, as he scored 10 touchdowns last year in his first year as an Aggie. Still, Sternberger could be viewed as a risk by front offices, as he did sit out the 2017 season due to a transfer.

Tommy Sweeney, Boston College – Sweeney isn’t the most gifted tight end, but he does have a work ethic that has to be admired by coaches. A solid option all around, combined with a drive and fierce sense of competition, Sweeney could stay close to his alma mater and learn from the greatest quarterback of all time if he was drafted by New England. Sweeney would need a significant amount of coaching to become a NFL level starter, but it’s clear that he is willing to put in the effort to make that happen.

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