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    History of Patriots tight ends

    Russ Francis became a three-time Pro Bowl tight end for the Patriots from 1976-78.
    Russ Francis became a three-time Pro Bowl tight end for the Patriots from 1976-78.

    The Patriots have a rich history of strong performers at the tight end position. Examine some of the men who have played a large role at tight end for the Patriots over the years:

    Thomas Stephens


    With Patriots: 41 catches, 506 yards, 5 TDs


    Best season: 1960 (22 catches, 302 yards, 3 TDs) -- An original Patriot, Stephens was his most productive during the franchise’s inaugural season. He had a TD catch in three straight games, all wins at Nickerson Field.

    Tony Romeo

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    With Patriots: 110 catches, 1,724 yards, 10 TDs

    Best season: 1962 (34 catches, 608 yards, 1 TD) -- Romeo went from seven catches as a rookie in 1961 (with Dallas) to 34 as a Patriot. He finished sixth in the AFL by averaging 17.9 yards per catch.

    Jim Whalen



    With Patriots: 153 catches, 2,487 yards, 17 TDs)

    Best season: 1968 (47 catches, 718 yards, 7 TDs) -- The Cambridge native and Boston College product earned first-team All-Pro honors in the AFL. He finished second among all TEs (AFL and NFL) in catches and TDs.

    Bob Windsor


    With Patriots: 74 catches, 915 yards, 6 TDs

    Best season: 1972 (33 catches, 383 yards, 1 TD) -- Windsor’s first season as a Patriot came at age 30. He led the team in receptions in Weeks 8 and 9, including six for 54 yards against the soon-to-be-perfect Dolphins.

    Don Hasselbeck



    With Patriots: 99 catches, 1,444 yards, 15 TDs

    Best season: 1981 (46 catches, 808 yards, 6 TDs) -- Don’t blame Hasselbeck for the Patriots’ 2-14 record. All four of his career 100-yard games came in the ‘81 season and he ranked third on the team in yards from scrimmage.

    Russ Francis

    1975-80, ‘87-88

    With Patriots: 207 catches, 3,157 yards, 28 TDs

    Best season: 1980 (41 catches, 664 yards, 8 TDs) -- Though it wasn’t one of Francis’s three Pro Bowl campaigns, he set a career high in touchdown catches and finished third on the Patriots in scoring.

    Lin Dawson


    With Patriots: 117 catches, 1,233 yards, 8 TDs

    Best season: 1984 (39 catches, 427 yards, 4 TDs) -- Dawson made a personal-best 15 starts in 1984 and had a career year. His two best games came against the rival Jets (11 catches, 140 yards, 1 TD).

    Marv Cook


    With Patriots: 210 catches, 1,843 yards, 11 TDs

    Best season: 1991 (82 catches, 808 yards, 3 TDs) -- Cook was a most deserving choice as first-team All-Pro, finishing with 23 more receptions than the next-closest tight end and a 144-yard edge over the field.

    Ben Coates


    With Patriots: 490 catches, 5,471 yards, 50 TDs

    Best season: 1994 (96 catches, 1,174 yards, 7 TDs) -- He opened the season with three straight 100-yard games and ended it among the top five receivers in the league. It was the first of two straight first-team All-Pro selections.

    Jermaine Wiggins


    With Patriots: 30 catches, 333 yards, 5 TDs

    Best season: 2001 (14 catches, 133 yards, 4 TDs) -- Wiggins matched his season reception total in the playoffs. He recorded 10 in the “Tuck Rule” game, with eight coming during the fourth quarter and overtime.

    Christian Fauria


    With Patriots: 79 catches, 790 yards, 13 TDs

    Best season: 2002 (27 catches, 253 yards, 7 TDs) -- Fauria had slightly more receptions and yardage in the following Super Bowl season, but in ‘02, one-quarter of his receptions resulted in touchdowns.

    Daniel Graham


    With Patriots: 120 catches, 1,393 yards, 17 TDs

    Best season: 2003 (38 catches, 409 yards, 4 TDs) -- Graham had a last-minute tying TD catch in an OT victory over Houston in Week 12 to save a long winning streak, and also had four catches in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

    Benjamin Watson


    With Patriots: 167 catches, 2,102 yards, 20 TDs

    Best season: 2006 (49 catches, 643 yards, 3 TDs) -- In his third season, Graham ranked second on the team in receptions and yards, and was third among all players with 49.5 yards per game.

    Aaron Hernandez


    With Patriots (first two seasons): 124 catches, 1,473 yards, 13 touchdowns

    Best season: 2011 (79 catches, 910 yards, seven touchdowns) -- Hernandez fell to the fourth round in the 2010 draft partly because of character questions. But he has been a huge value pick for the Patriots, who gave him a multi-year contract extension in August.

    Rob Gronkowski


    With Patriots (first two seasons): 132 catches, 1,873 yards, 28 touchdowns

    Best season: 2011 (90 catches, 1,327 yards, 17 receiving touchdowns) -- 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. Recently extended by the Patriots, he has emerged as one of the NFL’s most dangerous offensive weapons.