After sitting through minicamp and OTA’s, we’ll be taking a look at each of the new guys over the next couple of weeks to see exactly what we’ve learned from published news reports about each of them heading into Training Camp next month.  Today we’ll look back at what we’ve heard from reports on 2nd round draft pick – tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Tight End Rob Gronkowski is a tough player who so far appears to be a nice addition to New England’s offense. (PHOTO CREDIT: Icon/SMI)

Gronkowski’s an interesting prospect, because unlike teammate Aaron Hernandez, most describe him as more of a “blue collar” type of player who’s tough, and not afraid to “get dirty in the trenches”.  Some published reports say that Hernandez gets a lot of credit for his athletic ability, while most “experts” are calling Gronkowski a “complete player”, with excellent hands and tremendous blocking ability.  He appears to be a guy that like Hernandez is very athletic with great “soft” hands, but following the offseason workouts, according to most reports he seems to be a little behind in the depth chart heading into training camp.

The good news is that despite the fact that both Hernandez and Gronkowski are going to be battling for playing time in the coming months, Patriots.com’s Erik Scalavino wrote that Hernandez told reporters that he and Gronkowski became friends upon arriving in Foxboro.

“We met at the Combine and became friends,” said Hernandez. “Since we’ve been here, we’ve been close – kind of like brothers already – working together. It’s going to be a nice road ahead.”

So far the edge seems to be going to Hernandez through OTA’s and minicamp.  In a report from the Boston Globe’s Albert Breer from back on June 15th, Breer reported that Gronkowski appeared “a little behind” the other tight ends.

Rob Gronkowski looks like he might be a little behind the other tight ends, just based on the groups he’s running with. He did get some time with Brady’s unit, but it might be taking some time for him to earn prime-time reps.

Price reported that on that day quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien publicly aired out the two rookie tight ends for failing to line up correctly.

Albert Breer of the Boston Globe had more on the exchange:

“O’Brien pulled them off the field and lit into them, and it didn’t stop with a correction, either. The message was reinforced — more than once.”

On June 17th things seemed a little better, with Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald reporting that Gronkowski seemed to be more involved in practice that day.

Where he really is on the depth chart is kind of tough to tell, as head coach Bill Belichick more or less made it clear that the minicamps are “teaching camps” and that players aren’t completely evaluated during those sessions.  That happens when training camp starts, which is where the majority of players will get their shot to earn a role on the football team.

So it’s hard to read too much into some of what’s been written to this point, and Reiss also elaborated on these reports in his June 22nd mailbag:

Gronkowski has worked a bit more behind the scenes and with the lesser experienced players, I don’t think that’s necessarily a reflection of a troubling sign when it comes to Gronkowski’s potential production. A big part of it seems to be splitting up those repetitions. Veteran Alge Crumpler, who is also new to the system, is going to probably play earlier in the season than Gronkowski.

Despite all that, Reiss feels Gronkowski is a “lock” to make the roster, and in his mailbag back on July 2nd he said he felt that a potential cut at runningback could happen to make an additional roster spot available.

Something has to give and with three tight ends looking like locks for roster spots (Alge Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez), and I’m wondering if it could be at running back.

Meanwhile Gronkowski, has also been involved with some of the charity events here in New England, including taking part in a recent football camp put on by Arizona alumni Tedy Bruschi.  The rookie claims he had never met fellow alumni Tedy Bruschi before coming to New England, but he has become pretty good friends with the former Patriots linebacker since he’s been here.

“I’ve been pretty good friends with Tedy Bruschi since I’ve been here,” Gronkowski, the second-round pick, told me yesterday. “He just asked me to come up and participate and help out his camp and help out some kids. I definitely said, ‘Yeah.’ It’s a great thing to come out here and teach the kids some fundamentals.”

For video game fans of the Madden NFL series, the 2011 version has the top rookie is tight end for the Patriots as Gronkowski with a 77 in this year’s version of the game.

Price reports that Gronkowski remains unsigned, but has a thought as to where his deal will fall once the two sides reach an agreement.

No deal either for the 42nd overall pick in the draft, but history and the market suggest Gronkowski is looking at a four-year deal worth just over $4 million with guaranteed money in the $2 million range. (Last year, the No. 41 overall pick was cornerback Darius Butler — taken by the Patriots, he signed a four-year deal worth $4.325 million with $2.735 million guaranteed.)

He’s a hard working player, and appears to have the tools to become both a solid receiver, as well as a hard-nosed tight end who is a solid blocker.  We’ll finally get to see just what type of role he’ll fill in just over two weeks when the team finally opens training camp at Gillette Stadium.