By: Russ Goldman
I have been waiting for many years to see the Patriots have a tight end that could be a real threat in the passing game. Many tight ends have come and gone in the Belichick era with average results. The Pats might finally have found their man in a fourth round draft pick from the University of Florida. Aaron Hernandez could become the Patriots version of Dallas Clark at tight end.
Dallas Clark is basically a receiving tight end. He is almost imposssible to cover in the passing game from the slot. He is more of a wide receiver than tight end. But, his effect in the Colts passing game is tremendous.
I have been hoping to see a tight end in the Belichick era that could have Clark’s type of impact in the passing game. Daniel Graham had the potential, but was just an average tight end in the passing game. Dave Thomas I actually thought had the game, but his full ability never came out with the Pats. Ben Watson had all the speed and physical ability to be a real threat in the passing game. Unfortunately, he did not have the hands that are needed to be an elite pass catching tight end.
Now, why do I think Aaron Hernandez could finally be the tight end I have been hoping to see with the New England Patriots? I am not basing this off of 2 pre-season games. I have come to this conclusion looking at his entire career, and watching him actually play at the University of Florida. Hernandez has shown to have incredible hands, and seems to catch everything that is thrown to him. He also has the ability to separate himself from a defense and get open. I think he also has the body type to withstand the rigors of the NFL as a tight end.
Now, to back up my thoughts on this theory are the statistics from both Dallas Clark and Aaron Hernandez. Shockingly, if you look at both player’s numbers you should see why I feel so strongly about Hernandez.
Dallas Clark is 6’3″ tall and weighs 252 pounds. He is 31 years old and plays tight end for the Colts. Last season Clark had an unbelievable season. He had 100 receptions for 1106 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averaged 11.1 yards per reception. That is great production from your tight end.
His career statistics in 7 years are very impressive. He has averaged 50.8 receptions and 5.85 touchdowns a season. His career average for receptions is 11.8 yards per catch.
Dallas Clark I believe is the biggest weapon Peyton Manning has in his arsenal. He is always open and seems to consistently make the key catch to extend drives. He is the one Colt receiver I fear the most.
Now, lets look at the statistics of the Patriots fourth round draft pick from University of Florida. Aaron Hernandez is 6’2″ tall and weighs 245 p0unds. Last season at Florida he had 68 receptions for 850 yards and 5 touchdowns. He averaged 12.5 yards per reception. He also had these numbers in 14 games.
In his three year career at Florida, Hernandez averaged 37 receptions and 4 touchdowns per season. His career average for receptions was 12.45 yards per catch. For a college career these statistics are really good.
Now, I realize that comparing college numbers to NFL numbers is not a true apples to apples comparison. However, the numbers show the potential of what can be projected in the future for Hernandez. He will also be playing in an offense led by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. His upside is huge.
Hernandez I do think has the potential to be the weapon for Tom Brady that Dallas Clark is for Peyton Manning. The heights and the weights of the players are similar. Their production in their careers are fairly close.
The Patriots have not had a real weapon at tight end since Ben Coates. Based on what my eyes have shown me, and his statistics, Hernandez just might finally be the tight end I have been waiting for with the Patriots. I don’t think I am crazy to go out on a limb and say that Aaron Hernandez could become the Patriots version of Dallas Clark.
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