Terrific tandem Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski would have been enough to guarantee the New England Patriots a spot near the very top of this list. However, their offseason efforts have ensured that Bill Belichick's team has the strongest tight end depth chart in the NFL.
They added Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells and Visanthe Shiancoe to an offense that promises to be even more potent this season. Fells is an excellent blocker, and Ballard proved himself to be a more-than-capable receiver as a member of the New York Giants in 2011. Shiancoe is the kind of tight end who poses problems from the slot.
Then there are Gronkowski and Hernandez, the duo who have helped change the way offenses use tight ends. Not many defenses have found a way to handle Gronkowski. His size, excellent hands and precise route running create mismatches for any unit.
As much as the New York Giants have the Patriots' number, there's no doubt Big Blue caught a huge break when Gronkowki entered Super Bowl 46 carrying an injury. With defenses sure to pay more attention to Gronkowski this season, Hernandez could be an even bigger factor.
He possesses superior speed to excel as a larger slot receiver. His quickness and agility commits defenses to assigning a secondary player to cover him.
With Hernandez and Gronkowski featured in the passing game, the Patriots will remain among the league's highest scorers, while other teams try to emulate their multiple tight end offense.