Three years ago, coach Bill Belichick decided to build his offense around two rookie tight ends.
Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady would still have slot receiver Wes Welker as his primary target, but the Patriots made a conscious decision to feature their tight ends. Rob Gronkowski, a second-round draft pick out of Arizona, and Aaron Hernandez, a fourth-rounder out of Florida, were dropped into Brady’s offense as potential game-changers.
And over three seasons, the experiment was a rousing success. Gronkowski caught 187 passes and scored 38 touchdowns in 43 regular season games, establishing himself as the best at his position. Hernandez had 175 receptions and scored 18 touchdowns in 38 regular season games and was an emerging star.