I'm as excited about the offensive youth on the Patriots as I've been in quite a while.
Yes, Ben Watson was faster than most tight ends and as such a default mismatch when going against a linebacker. However, his inconsistent hands didn't allow him to capitalize on his speed.
Tight end should finally once again be a featured position in the New England offense, and rightfully so. In addition to steady vet Alge Crumpler, the Pats added a couple of rookies that have fans pumped up.
On one hand, you've got Rob Gronkowski. At 6'6", 265 pounds with above-average playing speed, he's the future of the position in New England. A solid blocker with soft hands, guys like him define "prototype tight end." For those of us who have always wanted to have a Jason Witten/Heath Miller type, our prayers have been answered.
Aaron Hernandez may be the guy who steals the limelight early on in spite of all of Gronk's assets.
Described by some as similar to Dallas Clark, that may be laying it on just a tad thick. However, he does boast almost a carbon copy of his skill set. Great speed allows him to split out wide, and he's versatile enough to rotate in and out of the backfield.
Provided he can overcome some off-the-field controversy (marijuana use in college), he'll likely provide the greatest return from the position while Crumpler and Gronkowski joust for the reps playing snug against the tackle.
Taylor Price has speed to spare, the kind of which pretty much guarantees he'll see the field at times in almost every game. If he can translate his game to the NFL level, whoever is working the middle of the field is all but assured of one-on-one coverage while he and Randy Moss fly deep.
Julian Edelman is Wes Welker-lite, and he absolutely shattered expectations as a rookie last season. The converted college quarterback was one of the most exciting surprises at any position and should be exponentially better in year two.
While Brandon Tate is a little bit more conventional in terms of all-around talent, his lack of playing time last season makes him an unknown to Patriots foes this upcoming season.
It's become something of a trend that the best teams in the league usually boast at least one offensive 'tweener, a guy who puts pressure on the defense to account for him in unconventional ways. The Patriots could potentially have several, which bodes well for their diversity this season.