In activating veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe from the injured reserve/designated to return list, the Patriots now go five deep at the position:
1. Rob Gronkowski
2. Aaron Hernandez
3. Daniel Fells
4. Visanthe Shiancoe
5. Michael Hoomanawanui
It’s hard to imagine there is another team in the NFL with such an overstocked tight end position.
A few things to consider:
1. While Hernandez and Hoomanawanui are technically listed as tight ends, Hernandez is just as much of a receiver while Hoomanawanui has been utilized as a fullback in recent weeks and has also been on three core special teams units. While both can play the traditional tight end role, they contribute to the team in other ways.
2. Adding Shiancoe provides even more flexibility when it comes to managing the health of Hernandez, who had a setback with his ankle a few weeks ago, according to ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton. Hernandez has been limited in practice all week, and if the Patriots decide that giving him more time is the best decision for the long term, activating Shiancoe gives them another option as he’s a proven pass-catcher.
3. Shiancoe’s presence won’t affect playing time for Rob Gronkowski (94 percent of the snaps), but he could have a direct impact on No. 3 tight end Daniel Fells. After peaking with 80 total snaps played against the Bills and Broncos, Fells has seen his playing time dip in the last three games (58 total snaps). Shiancoe and Fells appear to have similar skill sets.