Fourth in an ongoing series looking at each position on the Patriots roster and how it is viewed when compared to the rest of the NFL:
Starter: Alge Crumpler
Backups: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Myers
NFL chatter: Bill Belichick's affinity for the tight end position is well documented, from devoting first-round picks (Daniel Graham in 2002; Benjamin Watson in 2004) to aggressively acquiring veterans like Chris Baker and Alex Smith in 2009. This position has been completely turned over in 2010. Crumpler could help the running game as he is still a top performer in that area, but he isn't expected to be a major factor as a pass catcher. So that likely means the Patriots will be relying on rookies to step up as pass-catchers, which creates a dynamic of the unknown.
Overall depth chart: Unlike last season, when the Patriots had just two pure tight ends on their 53-man roster for most of the year, this looks like a season in which they will have three, with each having a good chance of being active on the 45-man game-day roster. That opens new possibilities for the offense and could help most in the red-zone. Crumpler is currently leading the way and is more likely to play on the line, while Hernandez is a "move" target who might initally see more playing time than Gronkowski because his receiver-like skills better complement Crumpler. Myers looks like a developmental prospect who could stick on the practice squad.
Final analysis: Middle of the NFL pack, with rookies Gronkowski and Hernandez a promising pair to groom.