Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida
Weight: 245 pounds
40 time: 4.64
The 2009 Mackey Award winner as the top tight end in college football, Aaron Hernandez is a very talented player who possesses an intriguing blend of size, speed, and athleticism for a tight end.
A two-year starter for the Gators, Hernandez caught 111 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns during his career at Florida; his best season came in 2009 when he recorded 68 receptions for 850 yards and five touchdowns.
A reliable receiver who developed into Tim Tebow’s safety net in the middle of the field, Hernandez excels at running routes in the short-to-intermediate range where he can use his excellent athleticism to pick up yards after the catch. In 2009, Aaron took over the role that Percy Harvin held for the Gators, as the underneath option or read for Tebow. Hernandez is at his best running shallow routes and setting down in the soft spots in coverage to pick up the first down. He’s a terrific option in the passing game on third down to try to move the chains.
Aaron has great hands with the ability to make acrobatic catches if needed. Hernandez has quickness and agility as well as great vision in the open field. He’s a big matchup problem for defenses as he has the size to run through tacklers and the athleticism to around them; he’s too fast for a linebacker to cover, but too big for a defensive back to try to bring down.
Aaron’s route running definitely needs some fine tuning, but it’s not that far away from where it needs to be. I have some concern regarding him adapting to the pro-style offense in the NFL after playing in a spread offense in college, however Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy’s success as rookies in 2009 makes me feel better about this. Aaron still needs a lot of work as an in-line blocker in order to become a more complete tight end. He lacks the strength to consistently hold up at the line as a blocker and there are times when he will struggle to get release from the line of scrimmage when a bigger and stronger linebacker tries to press him at the line. As a blocker he needs to work on playing with better leverage and being more stout at the point of attack, as he’s not much of a drive blocker off the line. I project that Hernandez will be drafted in the second-to-third round.
I believe that Hernandez can develop into a Dallas Clark-type of tight end who excels at playing in the slot and being a very reliable option for his quarterback in the passing game, but won’t offer much as a blocker. He has the potential and upside to become a very good player if he can land in the right system at the next level.
Notes: In 2009, Aaron was named first-team All-American, first-team All-SEC, and was the first tight end from the SEC to ever win the Mackey Award. As a sophomore in high school, Aaron committed to Connecticut, where his dad, Dennis, and brother, D.J., had both attended; however, when his dad passed away in January of 2007, he decided to look at other schools. Coming out of high school, Hernandez was rated as the No. 2 tight end and No. 66 overall player in the country by Rivals.com. As a prep, he also lettered in basketball in addition to football.
Hernandez’s blocking deficiencies don’t concern fantasy owners, who might still be slack-jawed from that Dallas Clark comparison. Hernandez fits that new mold of tight ends—Owen Daniels and Dustin Keller as well as Clark—that aren’t asked to do much blocking because they’re too busy creating matchup problems in the passing game.
If there’s a concern for dynasty leaguers, it’s that Hernandez doesn’t project to be an every-down tight end—that is, unless he goes to an offense like the Colts that eschews the extra blocking of a tight end and uses him out of the slot. However, when he is on the field you know he’s going to be in the pattern, and his ability to find seams in the zone and create mismatches with defenders support the “quality over quantity” theory of productivity. As a likely second-round selection Hernandez should also avoid the curse of the first-round tight end (over the past decade only one first-rounder has put up more than three TDs or 460 yards in their rookie campaign), so he may even garner attention in redraft leagues given the right situation.