One of the themes that came up consistently in an offseason study exploring other NFL teams was the idea of searching in-house for every possible answer before signing an external free-agent. One example that stood out was in Jacksonville last season, where the Jaguars were looking for a mismatch-type running back who could catch passes out of the backfield and ultimately tailored a role for undersized rookie receiver Ace Sanders along those lines.
This thought came to mind today after sharing an opinion on the Patriots' needs, and listing tight end in the No. 3 spot.
The Patriots currently have three tight ends on the roster -- Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui and D.J. Williams -- but after further inspection, it's possible they have a fourth; he's just listed as a wide receiver.
It's Mark Harrison.
The former Rutgers Scarlet Knight is 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds, which is about as big as it gets for a receiver and almost puts him into a "move tight end" classification. Harrison had some things going for him coming out of Rutgers but went undrafted and then didn't pass a physical with the Bears (foot injury). The Patriots signed him on May 20 and he ended up spending last year on season-ending injured reserve.
The expectation is that he'll be a full participant in the team's offseason program which starts April 21, and three things stood out when looking into Harrison as a possible fit into the Patriots' tight end discussion:
1. At least one other NFL team, in the pre-draft process last year, viewed Harrison as more of a "move" tight end than a receiver.
2. Harrison's former Rutgers teammate, receiver Tim Wright, made the same transition to tight end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season and totaled 54 catches under coach Greg Schiano. Harrison is actually bigger than Wright (6-4, 220).
3. The Patriots are fairly well stocked at receiver, and with a lighter tight end depth chart combined with a draft class that is sparking some questions, Harrison might have the best chance to emerge as a tight end.
Some football food for thought as we consider areas of the Patriots' roster and the team's level of need.