The New England Patriots have answered a lot of questions already this offseason, they picked up Revis and Browner to solidify the pass defense, drafted enough offensive linemen to solidify the team for a decade, even seemingly finding Brady's replacement drafting Jimmy Garoppolo. However the Patriots still have some questions on the roster one of the biggest being who will make an impact at tight end this season.
In past seasons the impact came from Aaron Hernandez but with a growing pile of felonies Hernandez is the farthest thing from helpful for the New England Patriots this upcoming season. Pair that with Gronk's constant injuries and the Patriots desperately needed bring in a tight end this offseason either through free agency or the draft, but now that preseason workouts are starting and there is still no addition the idea of a solid replacement being added to the roster at this point is highly unlikely.
So this leaves the Patriots with last seasons tight end options and several less than inspiring rookie free agent tight ends added this offseason, but a surprise option could emerge and be a big impact as a receiving tight end in Mark Harrison.
Harrison, a former Rutgers wide receiver, was signed last season as an undrafted free agent and placed on the practice squad but battled injury all year. At Rutgers Harrison managed 107 receptions for 1769 yards and 18 touchdowns over four years with his most productive being his sophomore season grabbing 44 catches for 829 yards and nine touchdowns.But is a practice squad wide out in Mark Harrison the answer at tight end in New England? It can't be said for certain but what we do know is he has all of the tools to be a success.
Standing at 6'3'' and weighing in at 230+ pounds Harrison already has a build closer to a tight end than a wide receiver and has the benefit of being a Rutgers product which every Patriot fan knows is a plus. Not only does Harrison have the size to play a move tight end role for the Patriots he also has the quickness to get open and make plays.
Playing wide out in college Harrison is already used to having to shake quicker defenders than the safeties and linebackers he would match up against in the NFL. Harrison ran an unofficial 4.46 in the 40 yard dash at the NFL combine (per nflcombineresults.com) and more importantly ran a 6.99 second three cone drill. If he had competed this years combine he would have ranked first in both drills showing his true physical prowess.
These physical tools will give Harrison an advantage over the slower more blocking tight ends on the roster like Michael Hoomanawanui and a chance to fill the void at receiving tight end, and with Rob Gronkowski out for the near future Mark Harrison has the inside track over any tight end added this offseason and likely will draw a lot of attention this preseason.
With the physique and athleticism that mirrors many of the best receiving tight ends in the league Harrison can develop into a legitimate threat as a receiving tight end that causes match up problems using his speed to beat bigger defenders, and size to box out smaller players.
Although Harrison won't be the most complete tight end, likely a weak blocker and with inconsistent hands particularly on balls thrown low, he will be on the fast track to a roster spot due to the need for an explosive tight end for Brady to throw too and if he takes the opportunity should make a nice living in New England.