By Hal Bent
The New England Patriots are a team that helped define the modern tight end usage in the NFL today. The Patriots introduced the dynamic two-tight end offense in 2010 when they sprung their two rookies, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, on unsuspecting defensive coordinators. For three seasons, the Patriots rode two of the best values at the tight end position to a Super Bowl appearance and a trip to the AFC Championship Game. With Hernandez behind bars currently, the question becomes if Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end drafted by the New England Patriots in their history.
The Patriots first great tight end was 1975 first round draft pick Russ Francis. The three time Pro Bowl tight end ended his tenure in New England with a bizarre retirement after the 1980 NFL season following a contract dispute. After a year off, Francis came out of retirement to play for the San Francisco 49ersand there won a Super Bowl with them catching passes from Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. He did come back for a year to finish his career with the Patriots.
Before Francis, Jim Whalen was the top tight end drafted by the Patriots as the third round draft pick put together five solid seasons in the 1960s. After Francis, the Patriots had second round draft pick Don Hasselbeck in 1977, ninth round draft pick in 1979 John Spagnola, 1981 eighth round draft pick Lin Dawson, and 1989 third round draft pick Marv Cook manning the tight end position.
The next great tight end for the New England Patriots was a fifth round draft pick in 1991 out of Livingstone college, Ben Coates. CLICK HERE FOR MORE: http://cover32.com/patriots/2014/02/26/new-england-patriots-best-draft-pick-at-tight-end/