The New England Patriots need to find a pass-catching tight end to fill the role that Rob Gronkowski previously thrived doing. Jacob Breeland of the Oregon Ducks would make a lot of sense to target in the upcoming NFL Draft for that role.
Through 15 games, the tight end position has been a non-factor in the Patriots' passing game. Not having a strong impact in this area is a big reason the team's offense hasn't been quite as explosive this season as in recent years.
Statistically, the best tight end for the Patriots has been Ben Watson and he only has recorsed 16 catches for 169 yards and zero touchdowns so far this season.
Breeland isn't the best route-runner, but he is a big-bodied receiver, a lot like Gronkowski was. Breeland suffered a season-ending leg injury in early October and while that could hurt his draft stock a bit, he should make a full recovery from the injury.
Managing to land Breeland later in the draft for the Patriots would be a big win for their franchise. Before going down with the injury, Breeland had 26 catches for 406 yards and six touchdowns. He was the team's leading receiver at the time of the injury.
Thedraftnetwork.com gave the following review of Breeland's game, noting how he excelled with catch through contact:
“Has decent long speed to attack the deep third of the field; most successful on vertical routes working into space between zones. Can address football away from frame and has great length and leaping ability to increase size of the catch radius. Catch through contact with plus concentration evident on tape. Able to take on contact after the catch and maintain feet to pick up extra YAC. Gives effort as a blocker; will drop his hips and engage with hands as an H-back looking to seal off with leverage or when climbing into the second level.”
There are some questions about Breeland's durability given his frame, but getting into an NFL weight program should help mitigate some of those concerns.
While Breeland isn't quite as athletic as Gronkowski was, but when Brady, or whoever the Patriots' quarterback of the future needs a person he can trust in a key spot, Breeland would be there and ready to make the catch.
Draft experts seem to be all over with where Breeland is going to be drafted. Some experts think he could go in the first round, while others think the third or fourth round might make more sense.
If Breeland is still on the board when the Patriots are on the clock, they need to seriously consider selecting Breeland. He would bring a needed instant impact to New England's offense.