FOXBOROUGH — You're going to hear two things about new Patriots tight end Tim Wright in the next day.
1) He's a good barber. (Seriously, we all could care less.)
2) He's a hard worker. (Tuesday's talking point.)
What's more interesting and revealing about Wright is how he converted from wide receiver at Rutgers to tight end in the NFL. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he rivals the size of Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell (6-3, 210). But more importantly, he's close enough to the mold of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (6-1, 245) who excelled in New England's offense as a receiving threat. Wright caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns last season, his rookie year.
The New Jersey native did most of his damage in the middle of the field. He caught 38 of his passes between the hash marks, 24 of which were between 1 and 9 yards. When he ventured outside the hash marks, he was less prolific, targeted only 24 times while catching 16 passes.
But he was his most useful when Tampa Bay had him coming out of the slot. (Sound familiar?) According to ProFootballFocus.com, Wright was lined up in the slot 62.2 percent of the time he was running routes on the field and caught 32 of his 54 receptions as a slot receiver. (Wright was in the slot a higher percentage of the time than New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham who argued that he should be considered a wide receiver in arbitration after being hit with the franchise tag.)
Patriots linebacker Steve Beauharnais, who was a captain on the Rutgers defense in 2012 and a teammate of Wright's, said he was difficult to cover because he was so physical.
"You know, he’s a little physical in running his routes," Beauharnais said. "You know he’s a big body guy. He’s tough there. He’s also quick like a receiver. He also has stickies for hands."
When Beauharnais talks about "stickies for hands," this is what he means:
In his pro day ahead of the 2013 draft, Wright ran a 4.65 40-yard dash, completed the 3-cone drill in 7.27 seconds (because we know how important that is to Bill Belichick), and hit 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
In comparison, Hernandez ran the 40 in 4.64, completed the 3-cone drill in 6.83, and hit 30 reps on the bench.
In Wright's final season at Rutgers, he caught 39 passes for 449 yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots are getting another tight end and wide receiver combination that fills a void the team has had since Hernandez was released due to an assortment of charges related to the deaths of three men. While the team has been showcasing more three- and four-wide receiver sets this preseason, the trade for Wright signals a return to more two tight end sets that will utilize the talents of both Wright and Rob Gronkowski.