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Tony Romeo (1962-67), Thomas Stephens (1960-64), and Bob Windsor (1972-75), left to right, were among the Patriots' first tight ends.
Frank O'Brien/Globe Staff
Jim Whalen (1965-69), left, was a Cambridge native and BC product who was a Pro Bowler in 1968.
Don Hasselbeck (1977-83), right, had his best season in 1981, with 46 catches for 808 yards and six touchdowns.
Russ Francis (1975-1980, 1987-88) was a three-time Pro Bowler in New England whom Bill Belichick would later bring back and tell his players to emulate.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Lin Dawson (1981-90) played his entire career in New England. He never caught 40 passes in one season, however.
Bill Greene/Globe Staff
Marv Cook (1989-93) continued the tradition of Patriots tight ends reaching Pro Bowl status when he earned the honors in 1991 and 1992.
Henry Ray Abrams/AFP/Getty Images
Ben Coates (1991-99), who was difficult to bring down at times, went to five straight Pro Bowls from 1994-1998.
Jermaine Wiggins (2000-01), a product of East Boston, played just two seasons in New England, but was instrumental in the team's run to a Super Bowl XXXVI title.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Christian Fauria (2002-2005) caught 79 passes over his four seasons, and helped the Patriots win two Super Bowl titles.
Daniel Graham (2002-2006) was a first round pick who scored 17 touchdowns over five seasons and helped the Patriots win two Super Bowl titles.
Benjamin Watson (2004-2009) was a first-round pick who caught 167 passes and scored 20 touchdowns over six seasons.
Hernandez was a fourth round in 2010 who became a huge value pick for the Patriots, who gave him a multi-year contract extension in August.
Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Gronkowski set a new record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end in 2011, and has helped to re-think how much production is possible from a tight end.
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