Rob Gronkowski: Coming off ankle surgery and likely associated hip woes, Gronkowski was not as good this season as in 2011 before basically missing the final seven games with a broken forearm. With five drops and 7.5 run stuffs allowed, was on pace to exceed his 2011 stats (eight and nine, respectively). Still, compared with the rest, he’s tremendous. Grade: A-minus.
Aaron Hernandez: Missed time for the third straight season to start his career. His 10 drops on 106 targets (9.4 percent) led to a worse drop rate than Welker (6 percent). Still a below-average blocker. Time for him to be the star the Patriots are paying him to be. Grade: B-minus.
Michael Hoomanawanui: Solid, smart player with good hands who must get stronger in the offseason. When you add the percentage of run stuffs and pass pressures allowed, he was the worst blocker on the team. A restricted free agent. Grade: D-minus.
Daniel Fells: One of the season’s great mysteries is why Fells, who is a better blocker and allowed zero pass pressures, had to sit behind Hoomanawanui. Grade: D-plus.
Brad Herman: Undrafted free agent hurt early in training camp. Grade: Incomplete.
Ryan Wendell: At 6 feet 2 inches and 300 pounds, he doesn’t overwhelm people physically, but over the course of the season, Wendell really played well — and in a tough division for centers. Allowed stuffed runs on just 1.8 percent of his snaps and pass pressures on 2.8 percent. Combined 4.6 percent led all offensive linemen. Grade: A-minus.
Logan Mankins: Wasn’t quite right physically until the end of the season, but put up impressive numbers: half-sack allowed, 10 hurries, 7.5 knockdowns, 18 total pressures, 9 stuffed runs. Compare with 2011: 3.5 sacks, 13.5 hurries, 7 knockdowns, 24 total pressures, 16 stuffed runs. He’s almost back. Grade: A-minus.
Sebastian Vollmer: Through Week 12, he was probably the best right tackle in the game. But he slumped badly toward the end of the season, giving up 5.5 of his 6.5 sacks and 23 of his 37 pressures in the final seven games. Big decision on a key unrestricted free agent. Grade: B-plus.
Nate Solder: Was a better run blocker than Matt Light, and in the ballpark in terms of pressure-allowed percentage (4.1 for Light, 5.6 for Solder). As a first-year starter at left tackle, that’s darn good. The team has its franchise left tackle, there’s no question about it. Grade: B-plus.
Dan Connolly: Continues to deal with injuries, but when he’s right, the right guard is tough and efficient inside. Second only to Mankins in pressure-allowed percentage (3.3). Led team with 11.5 stuffed runs allowed but percentage (2.6) was fine. Grade: B-minus.
Donald Thomas: Had his moments in seven starts between left and right guard. Allowed pressure and stuffed runs on 3.5 percent of his snaps each. Borderline starter headed into unrestricted free agency. Grade: C-plus.
Marcus Cannon: Started one game, and his performance in the run (2.3 percent) vs. the pass (6.5 percent) indicates that his future might be at guard and not tackle. Grade: D-plus.
Nick McDonald: Started one game and his value is that he can play center, guard, or tackle in a pinch. A better run blocker than pass blocker. Grade: D.
Markus Zusevics: Undrafted free agent right tackle was active for one game but didn’t play. Grade: Incomplete.
Jamey Richard: Veteran suffered a concussion in camp and landed on injured reserve. Grade: Incomplete.
Kyle Hix: Two years, two August placements on injured reserve. Grade: Incomplete.
Vince Wilfork: Led the team, by far, with 21.5 stuffed runs and was third with 26.5 quarterback pressures (which kind of illustrates a team pressure problem). There isn’t anything he can’t do up front. Grade: A.
Rob Ninkovich: Led the team in sacks (my numbers are different from officials numbers, as I give credit to the players who actually cause the sack) with 10.5, tied for first with five forced fumbles, was second with 39.5 total pressures and fifth in stuffed runs (11). Model of consistency, and his positional versatility is a big asset. Grade: B-plus.
Chandler Jones: Through 10 games, he was headed toward being the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with 6 sacks, 15 hurries, 12 knockdowns (33 total pressures), and 7 stuffed runs. In final eight games (two missed) after hurting his ankle, Jones had zero sacks, 4.5 hurries, 4.5 knockdowns (9 total pressures), and 1.3 stuffs. He still wound up leading the team with 42 pressures. Grade: B.
Kyle Love: Was fourth on the team with 12 run stuffs, and posted a respectable 11 total quarterback pressures. Very solid player who continues to excel at disengaging from blocks. Grade: B-minus.Continued...