Heading into next season, there is a good chance that Martellus Bennett will no longer be a member of the Patriots. He is a unrestricted free agent and he deserves to cash in, coming off a solid season as a member of the Super Bowl winning Patriots. Without Bennett, the Patriots depth at the position is as follows: Rob Gronkowski, Matt Lengel and Rob Housler. Therefore there is an obvious need for a TE to be drafted, especially given Gronkowski’s precarious injury situation.
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Enter 6’7”, 245 pound Bucky Hodges of Virginia Tech.
Projected to be an early mid-round pick, Hodges is a converted quarterback that has played just three seasons at the position. Last season, Bucky Hodges caught 48 balls for 691 yards and seven touchdowns. For his collegiate career he caught 133 passes for 1,747 yards and 20 touchdowns.
His strengths are summarized in his NFL.com Draft Profile:
Outstanding combination of size and athleticism for the position. Smooth glider around the field. Runs fast and plays fast. Long target with extended catch radius. Can get up and over the top of most defenders at the high point. Willing to work over the middle and has the frame for it. Spent time at all receiver spots and could be an option from the slot as well as outside as a pro. Seam-beater who can get over top of linebackers and work all three levels of the field. Saw 28 percent of his catches go for 20-plus yards in 2016. Can access a second gear out of route stems. Once he stacks defender on his hip, he wins. Excellent ball tracker with second gear and hand usage for late separation down the field. Former quarterback with valuable knowledge of coverages. Will demand additional attention if covered by a cornerback near goal line. Shows strength to overwhelm defensive backs as a blocker.
There is a lot to like about Bucky Hodges. His size and speed for one but also his understanding of offensive schemes from a quarterbacks stand point. What sticks out too is his ability to play all over the field. Versatility, as we all know, is greatly valued by Bill Belichick and his coaching staff. Belichick will never put a player in a position where he is asked to do something he can’t so they would certainly play to Bucky Hodges strengths, but the more he can do the better and he looks to have that skill set.
He looks as though he could be a very good complimentary target to Rob Gronkowski as he too is a red zone mismatch. Bucky Hodges will have to improve his blocking, something he can do over time with good coaching, but he will have to be prepared to step up to the plate if/when Rob Gronkowski misses some time.
The Patriots hold two picks in the third round, one of which is a compensatory pick issued for Jamie Collins and one fourth round pick (Patriots were forced to forfeit the Seahawks fourth round pick they acquired due to Deflategate penalty).