One of the biggest question marks for the New England Patriots this season comes at the tight end position. The Patriots must entirely reload after losing their trio of tight ends from last season, including Rob Gronkowski.
It was unexpected for the Patriots to lose its entire tight end group over the offseason. While it was thought Dwayne Allen would walk in free agency, there was no certainty that Gronk would retire. Even Jacob Hollister, who many believed was in Tom Brady’s circle of trust, was traded to Seattle leaving the position nearly vacated.
Follow the Heavy on Patriots Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors, and content!
Losing Gronk especially hurts, but not for reasons you might think. Sure he made ridiculous catches and was borderline uncoverable. His blocking ability, however, was even more elite and will be the biggest asset to fill.
While New England did enough to fill out the position, it’s still a question of how it will all work out and who will make the team. Here’s what the depth chart could look like.
1. Ben Watson
He’s not only a 15-year veteran, but he’s also experienced in the New England system. Watson was drafted by New England with the final pick in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He immediately became a key contributor, spending six seasons in Foxborough.
Watson scored 20 touchdowns in his time with the Patriots, which included a rocky rookie season featuring a contract dispute and a season-ending knee injury. He excelled at catching passes in tight coverage and since departing New England in 2010 has improved considerably as a blocker.
He’ll miss the first four games to suspension but will likely be the starter upon his return.
2. Matt LaCosse
With this season likely being Watson’s last in the NFL, it’s important for LaCosse to make some major strides in his first year with the Patriots. He played his first full season last year with Denver, after spending parts of three seasons on the practice squad or primarily as a gameday inactive.
LaCosse has mainly been used as a blocker but has shown good extension in the receiving game. He had 24 catches last season for 250 yards and a touchdown for the Broncos. At 6-foot-6 and nearly 260 pounds, his build is like that of Gronkowski. Perhaps Bill Belichick feels they can get the most out of LaCosse, and he’s a pretty low-risk project.
3. Stephen Anderson
If the Patriots are hoping to get some receiving help from the position, Anderson is their guy. A former wideout, Anderson spent most of the season on the Patriots’ practice squad and has a year under his belt in this offense.
Although his size is a little small for a tight end, reports are that he bulked up during the offseason and has shown improved blocking ability in the early part of preseason. Not a bad third option for the New England offense to toy with, given his past as a wide receiver and potential special teams ability.
Best of the Rest
The three other tight ends – Andrew Beck, Ryan Izzo, and Lance Kendricks – are potentially in a three-way battle for what could be the final spot. Each boasts different skillsets and the first two have practice squad eligibility should they be cut and unclaimed.
Kendricks, however, is the only one with NFL experience. A minor injury in the preseason has already threatened his chances to make the roster in Week 1. Having played in 125 of a possible 128 regular-season games over 8 seasons, Kendricks could be a dark-horse to make the roster ahead given his multifaceted ability and Watson’s suspension.
Izzo, a 2018 draft pick, was sidelined by injury as a rookie. In college, he had 761 receiving yards at Florida State while being relied on mainly as a blocker. Beck, originally a linebacker, was primarily a blocker as well but had 440 receiving yards at Texas.