New England Patriots: Why Aaron Hernandez Is Better off at TE Than WR

Drew BonifantAnalyst IIAugust 15, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 9:   Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots looks toward the sideline during a preseason game against the Orleans Saints in the first half at Gillette Stadium on August 9, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

His talent is seemingly bigger than the position allows for. It sometimes seems unfair to call Aaron Hernandez a tight end and leave it at that. He's quicker than most tight ends. He's faster. He's more explosive. He's more dangerous after the catch.

But a player can have his talent touch other positions without becoming them. Hernandez looks like a wide receiver. He looks like a running back. But he has his natural position.

He's a tight end, and that's where he belongs.

Hernandez's place in the offense and on the field has been a hot topic with the New England Patriots, ever since he caught a winning touchdown pass against Dallas after lining up out wide and shredded the Broncos in the playoffs out of the backfield.

The debate has crossed into this offseason, where the discussion has gone off the field as well. But whether the question is physical or financial—should Hernandez earn the franchise tag, he'll cost more as a wide receiver—the answer for the third-year budding star should always return to tight end.

The mismatches Hernandez creates at tight end are bonuses that the Patriots can't turn down. Few linebackers can cover him, and any time a defensive back has to cover a tight end is a win for the offense.

Simply put, playing at tight end allows Hernandez to look like an out-of-place wide receiver. If he were to shift to wide receiver, his edge in talent would fade.

He's fast, but only relatively fast. He's quick, but only relatively quick. He's got each of those talents compared to others at his position. To play wide receiver, you need to be more. You need to be fast—period. You need to be quick—period.

Hernandez has shown he can line up wide to throw wrinkles into the game plan, but he, and the team, will be best served if he spends most of his time lined up next to a tackle.

Though Hernandez is best suited for the tight end position, he certainly isn't perfect for it. He's never been much of a blocker, something that Rob Gronkowski has had more of an interest and talent for.

But in today's game, the blocking abilities of a tight end are being steadily replaced in priority by his ability to run good routes, get open and catch the ball.The days of slow, plodding tight ends who can crunch defensive players on sweeps are over.

Hernandez isn't perfect, but he's a perfect example of what the position is transitioning towards. Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis and Jermichael Finley are the kinds of tight ends we'll be seeing going forward. Gronkowski is New England's most dangerous tight end, but Hernandez is the one most built in that mold.

He may look like a receiver, but he isn't one. The good thing is that, at tight end, you only need to look the part to reap the benefits of the mismatches.