The big news this weekend was the retirement of surefire future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski. His departure leaves an obvious hole to fill for the Patriots at the tight end position and only the upcoming draft as their possibility to fill it. The Raiders could be standing in their way of that.
It nearly ended up being the Raiders who helped them fill the position. They let Jared Cook leave as a free agent. The 2018 Pro Bowler has signed on with the Saints, but the Patriots were said to have made a late push to get him. Presumably because of Gronk’s retirement.
Luckily Cook would slip through their fingers, but the draft has three of the better tight ends to come out in the same draft in recent memory — Iowa’s TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant and Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr.
With Cook’s departure, the Raiders are in the same boat as the Patriots. The difference is they have three first round picks, all of which come before the Patriots make their selection at 32 overall.
Many mocks have all three tight ends gone before the Patriots pick, including Tyler Smith’s recent contribution. For all three of them to be gone, however, the Raiders would probably have to be one of the teams taking one of them at either 24 or 27 overall.
Tyler has them taking Hockenson at 24 overall. He also has Noah Fant going to Seattle at 19 overall and Irv Smith Jr going to Green Bay at 30, leaving the Patriots without a tight end on the board who is worth of a first round pick.
Those who would scoff at this would probably point to Gronk having been a 2nd round pick (42 overall) or that he was injured enough the Patriots proved they could win without him. The thing is, though, you could say that about pretty much every position on the Patriots over the past 20 years besides quarterback and head coach.
It would be worth it just to imagine Belichick pounding his fist on the table if even a little bit when he hears the guy he targeted’s name called before their pick. It also helps, I’m sure, for the Raiders knowing that if you want one of those tight ends, you better take one at 24 or 27 because you can bet they will not be there at pick 35.