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Is Hernandez a diamond in the rough?

Posted by Albert Breer  April 26, 2010 02:03 PM

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Hernandez.jpgI said earlier that the Patriots' draft pick I'd expect to have the biggest immediate impact is ILB Brandon Spikes, who could well be the Day 1 starter next to Jerod Mayo.

But as to long-term "value" (there's that word again), well, you might want to turn to the fourth round to find your guy. Going into Saturday, here's what National Football Post director of college scouting Wes Bunting had to say about new Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez in his "Best of the Rest" story.

He possesses the ability to be a real X-factor in the pass game and definitely has some Dallas Clark/Chris Cooley to his game. I think he comes off the board early in round four and is a guy who can come in and create mismatches from day one.

And after Hernandez was picked, NFP stayed on the bandwagon, with the Web site's Matt Bowen including the tight end in his "Mid-round Impact Players" piece.

Hernandez isn’t the type of TE you want to align in the core of the formation and run behind, but that won’t be his role as a Patriot. The TE from Florida is athletic and can matchup against most strong safeties and nickel corners in the NFL from a size/speed impact. And in New England, his talents will be used effectively because of how the Patriots game plan and the fact they’re creative from an offensive perspective when we talk about personnel in certain situations. Expect Hernandez align in a variety of spots on the field (even as a WR) where he can win one-on-one matchups. The Patriots use personnel to their advantage better than any team in the league, and Hernandez will be productive in QB Tom Brady’s offense.

The Patriots could well carve out an early role for this guy as a "move" type of tight end and, in doing so, replace some of the production the team could be missing with the possibility Wes Welker starts the year on the PUP. That versatility is key, too. When speaking with Urban Meyer on the subject a couple weeks back, the Florida coach dropped the tight end's name in as an example.

"You’re just fortunate when you get a guy like Maurkice Pouncey, Aaron Hernandez, Tim Tebow," Meyer told me. "Percy Harvin was one of the most flexible football players I’ve ever been around, he could do everything. Major Wright. Joe Haden – He can play nickel corner. You know in practice if a guy can handle it. Most of it’s mental.  Can they handle it?"

Seems like Meyer thinks Hernandez can.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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