Tight ends & Patriots draft

We wrap up our position-by-position look at the Patriots as they head into the draft with an examination of the tight ends.

Current personnel: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells, Brad Herman (Note: restricted free agent Michael Hoomanawanui has yet to sign his original-round tender)

Need level: Low

Overview: Despite the persisting issues relating to Rob Gronkowski's forearm, the Patriots are in good shape at the tight end position for the short and long term. If Gronkowski misses any time during the upcoming season, the team has a unique option to replace him in Ballard, who started for the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. The 6-foot-6, 275-pounder is a reliable blocker and catcher who projects to be the top backup this season. Hernandez, the co-starter with Gronkowski, gives the Patriots one of the most versatile offensive players in football, and the key for both remains health. Missing each for a handful of games last season was a challenge the offense had to work around. Fells provides additional insurance, as will Hoomanawanui, assuming he signs his tender in the near future.

Scouts Inc.'s tight end prospects of note:

1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame. 6-6, 250 pounds. 2012 stats: 50 catches, 684 yards, 4 touchdowns.

2. Zach Ertz, Stanford. 6-6, 249 pounds. 2012 stats: 69 catches, 898 yards, 6 touchdowns.

3. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State. 6-6, 254 pounds. 2012 stats: 42 catches, 543 yards, 6 touchdowns.

4. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati. 6-5, 255 pounds. 2012 stats: 45 catches, 722 yards, 8 touchdowns.

5. Vance McDonald, Rice. 6-4, 267 pounds. 2012 stats: 36 catches, 458 yards, 2 touchdowns.

For additional information on these prospects and more, CLICK HERE to check out Scouts Inc.'s player database (Insider content).