Rookie tight ends drawing plaudits


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In Bill Belichick’s first 10 drafts, the Patriots selected eight tight ends. In the coach’s 11th draft, he took two. And those two already have shown the ability to better than any of their predecessors here.

Aaron Hernandez leads the team with 211 receiving yards, which ranks him behind only Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley, San Diego’s Antonio Gates and the Jets’ Dustin Keller among all NFL tight ends. No tight end with five or more catches in the NFL has a better per-reception yardage average than Hernandez’s robust figure of 16.2.

But as flashy and productive as Hernandez has been, second-round pick Rob Gronkowski might be even a little further ahead of his rookie classmate. His two touchdowns grab the headlines, yet it’s his overall game that’s caught the attention of the guys at Pro Football Focus (who had some harsher words for Vince Wilfork, Sebastian Vollmer, Brandon Spikes and Devin McCourty from Sunday), who called him “one of the most NFL-ready rookies” in their Bills game review and stuck him on their Rookie of the Year contender list. PFF wrote …

The less heralded of New England’s rookie tight ends, Gronkowski is the
type of tight end we love. He can make plays in the passing game, but
looks a more than credible blocker.

Both guys are likely to present a problem for the Dolphins, who’ve struggled to cover Keller and Minnesota’s Visanthe Shiancoe in this season’s early weeks. As Sun-Sentinel Dolphins writer Omar Kelly points out, this problem isn’t new for Miami, so Hernandez and Gronkowski could be two keys for New England on Monday night.

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