FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In selecting Marshall tight end Lee Smith in the fifth round (159th overall), the Patriots could be looking at a possible replacement for 11-year veteran Alge Crumpler in the future. The 33-year-old Crumpler, a team captain, enters the final year of his contract and is coming off shoulder surgery in the offseason.
At 6-foot-5, 266 pounds, Smith is considered one of the stronger blocking tight ends in the draft, although he also totaled 38 receptions last season, so he's not necessarily a block-only option.
Smith was also a backup long snapper. With that in mind, there is potential for keeping a fourth roster spot at tight end this season (Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez) because of that added value. Mike Bartrum, also out of Marshall, was a long snapper for the Patriots in the 1990s.
The Pro Football Weekly draft preview noted Smith's "outstanding intangibles -- highly respected, vocal team leader who ran wild early in his career, has matured greatly and now holds teammates accountable." Smith is a two-time team captain.
With Crumpler's guidance in 2011, this looks like a possible passing-of-the-torch situation at tight end.