1. What New England spent. The Patriots sent away one of their starting offensive linemen, Logan Mankins. At a glance, that’s a pretty significant price. Looking a bit deeper, Here are the top 10 offensive linemen since 2000, as judged by Approximate Value.
My point here isn’t to get into an in-depth analysis of offensive linemen, just to note that Mankins has a really good career going. It’s not like he’s “just a guy.” He’s been one of the most successful linemen of the century, and in fewer games than all but one of the other top 10. New England is in win now mode, given Tom Brady’s age, and the Pats surrendered a significant piece of their offensive line to get Tim Wright. It’s true that New England values draft picks, and that a fourth-round pick is desirable. It’s also true, as Matthew Freedman pointed out to me, that New England gets some salary cap relief. But again, I think New England is probably trying to win now, in which case the player, not the pick, was the real prize.
2. The New England Offense. Assuming that Wright is slated for “the Aaron Hernandez role,” that’s a valuable thing in and of itself. Hernandez garnered 260 targets in his three NFL seasons. In PPR points per game, he finished sixth (2012), third (2011), and 12th (2010). Apart from the schematic value for a New England tight end, there’s also probably a general opportunity value for a pass catcher. Aaron Dobson hasn’t fully returned from injury, nor has Rob Gronkowski. Danny Amendola is a likely injury report all star as well. Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, and Brandon LaFell are interesting to one degree or another, but neither so good nor so proven as to block Wright. So the potential for usage is decent.
3. Tim Wright the player. Coming out of college, Wright was not the world’s greatest TE prospect. He’s an undrafted, converted wide receiver. He’s undersized and not very agile. But he also wasn’t a bad prospect. He has excellent explosion and raw speed, and a very good market share of college pass targets1 for example. The TE Sim App offers an interesting set of comparables.
Note the first name on the list? Aaron Hernandez. There are actually plenty of other interesting comps in this plot. Again, Wright’s profile is fairly unusual, so none of the comps is perfect in and of itself, but the collection of players to which Wright’s 2013 season compares is impressive. Here’s how Wright’s 2013 season compares to the average of his comps from the TE Sim App.
Consider Wright’s rookie season just compared to Hernandez’s. The fantasy community was pretty bullish on Hernandez heading into 2011. Wright’s rookie season was just as impressive.
One more illustration to support the notion that Wright is a viable TE prospect.
That’s it. That’s every TE since 2000 with 500 or more receiving yards as a rookie. I’d say that’s really good company. Here’s how I look at it:
- Wright is athletic enough to be successful;
- His rookie season production was very impressive;
- We’d be ecstatic if the Patriots acquired any of his comps2 in their second seasons; and
- Therefore, we should be enthusiastic about Wright.
Are there concerns? Of course. It’s late in the preseason, and New England has a notoriously difficult playbook. It may be a challenge for Wright to be integrated into the offense quickly. Everybody else could stay healthy. But the upside is definitely worth pursuing.