Aaron Hernandez: Patriots Receivers Whose Roles Will Expand in TE's Absence

David Daniels@TheRealDDanielsSenior Writer ISeptember 17, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 09:  Tight end Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots congratulates teammate Rob Gronkowski #87 on scoring a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during their season opener at LP Field on September 9, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Injuries create opportunity.

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez exited Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals and never returned. ProFootballTalk then tweeted this report that didn’t ignite optimism about a quick recovery.

Source with knowledge says Pats tight end Aaron Hernandez could miss up to six weeks with ankle injury.

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) September 16, 2012

If Hernandez misses as much time as he’s expected to, with targets up for grabs, multiple Patriots receivers will be in position to emerge. Here they are—the weapons that could blow up with Hernandez out.


3. Daniel Fells

Naturally, as Hernandez’s backup, no one on this Pats offense will see their role expand as much as Fells.

The 28-year-old is primarily a blocking tight end. He’s also never caught more than 41 receptions for 391 yards and three touchdowns in a season. With that being said, when Tom Brady and company march into the red zone (a feat which they accomplish quite a bit), the 6’4”, 265-pound Fells will prove to be a quality safety valve.


2. Julian Edelman

Again, Fells is a blocking tight end. As a result, New England is unlikely to run two-tight end sets as often as it did with a healthy Hernandez. Bill Belichick is more likely to throw another slot onto the field as opposed to having Fells running routes across from Rob Gronkowski.

That’s where Edelman comes in.

He caught five passes for 50 yards against the Cards after being targeted just twice against the Tennessee Titans.


1. Wes Welker

Sticking with the slot theme, Welker’s numbers should receive a boost as well.

His fantasy football owners weren’t happy with his three-reception, 14-yard performance in Week 1. That’s not even PPR worthy. However, his five targets against the Titans turned into five receptions for 95 yards vs. the Cardinals.

Expect Welker to return to form thanks to what should be plenty of more looks.


David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.