(Revisiting notes by ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates, originally posted a few years ago, on how teams scout for players at each position, focusing on tight end today.)
DESIRED TRAITS: The ideal tight end can both block at a level that resembles an offensive lineman and catch at a level that resembles a receiver. Finding such a player is a rarity, although the New England Patriots have one in Rob Gronkowski.
On the blocking front, tight ends aim to get off the ball, engage defenders with a square, balanced base and explode upon contact. Scouts looks for quickness in blocking, strength, footwork and a willingness to take on bigger, more powerful defenders. Gronkowski shows terrific strength, hand placement, power through his hips to drive forward and a nastiness to finish his blocks as well.
The important traits to examine in tight ends as receivers are separation ability and catching skills. Tight ends are typically not as athletic as receivers, so separation often comes from using their size to leverage defenders.
The “F” or “move” tight end varies from a traditional “Y” tight end. The "F" is a player who is used all over the offensive formation, and is an adept receiver. The "Y," by comparison, is responsible to be an effective blocker, while often owning a less prominent receiving role. Gronkowski (6-foot-6, 265 pounds) bucks the trend, as he can both block and catch.
SPECIAL TEAMS ANGLE: Tight end is a position that teams often look to for core special-teams contributions, as well as blockers on the field-goal/PAT team. Gronkowski's forearm injury in 2012 came on the field-goal protection unit. If a team opts to keep a third and potentially fourth tight end, he must be able to contribute in the kicking game.
PATRIOTS TAKE: From 2010 to 2012, the Patriots ran 2,120 offensive plays with at least two tight ends on the field, by far the most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. With the team acquiring Martellus Bennett (6-foot-6, 273 pounds) this offseason, it could be a return to the 2010-2012 days. In March, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, "I think what New England did with the two tight ends, that's probably as good as a personnel transaction I've seen as far as pure matchup. Defensive coordinators, right now are [asking], 'How do you cover both of those guys? Who's going to be displaced? Who's not?' That's why the tight end position and the safety position in today's NFL is a prominent position in my view. ... That's where the matchups are." Seven-year veteran Clay Harbor, 2015 sixth-round pick A.J. Derby and undrafted free agents Steven Scheu and Bryce Williams are competing for a potential No. 3 role after Michael Williams was lost to a torn ACL in mandatory minicamp.