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Position Analysis: Tight end

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Tight end (4)
Rob Gronkowski (5th season)
Michael Hoomanawanui (5th season)
Matthew Mulligan (6th season)
D.J. Williams (4th season)

It wasn't long ago that the Patriots created the mold for the new age offense with tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But after Gronkowski's repeated surgeries, the latest involving his torn ACL, and Hernandez' well-documented legal situation things look a lot different at the position.

Gronkowski will be back at some point, although when he returns to his normal form is another matter. Obviously Hernandez won't and the need for a mobile, pass-catcher at the position is pretty high. So much so that many draft experts believe Bill Belichick could tab a tight end as early as the first round come May.

Regardless, the Patriots will need some new blood at the position because beyond Gronkowski there just aren't any bodies to rely on. Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan are both free agents and neither is capable of providing much production even if they re-sign.

The only other tight end currently on the roster is D.J. Williams. The 6-2, 245-pound Williams signed with the Patriots late last season and appeared in four games including two in the postseason. He failed to make a catch and hasn't made much of a mark as a pro in his three seasons following a solid career at Arkansas.

Clearly the Patriots will need more at tight end behind Gronkowski this time around. Whether that means investing a high draft pick or some free agent dollars at the position remains to be seen.

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