Checking the locks: Patriots TEs/FBs

As part of this slow time on the NFL calendar, when we'll be taking a break to recharge for the 2014 season, we introduce the pre-produced "checking the locks" series in which we analyze the players on the Patriots' roster who are "locks" to stick. Today, it's tight ends/fullbacks.

Sure-fire locks: Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui

Near lock: James Develin

Trying to get in the door: Justin Jones, Asa Watson, D.J. Williams

Analysis: This has arguably been the most-talked-about position on the Patriots' roster, in part because of what the Patriots didn't do -- no draft picks out of a light class, no notable free-agent signings from other teams. Gronkowski will obviously be a focal point of what the Patriots do on offense, and Hoomanawanui finds his way into the "sure-lock" category because he's the type of dependable player/insurance needed to account for Gronkowski's recent injury history. After that, it's wide open. Develin, the hard-nosed fullback, worked with the tight ends at times in spring camps and was competitive in the role. His work on special teams gives him an inside track for a roster spot. Meanwhile, D.J. Williams (fifth year) could be a factor as a more traditional "move" tight end but a strained calf kept him out of spring camps. Jones and Watson are more developmental types who factor into practice-squad consideration.