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AFC East's best: No. 22 Aaron Hernandez

By Tim Graham

HernandezMugA countdown of my top 25 AFC East players continues, one weekday at a time ...

The choice

The third-best receiver on your team usually doesn't rate among the division's elite, but when you're from one of the NFL's most prolific passing offenses, it's more than plausible. After all, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus might be the fourth-best defensive lineman on his team, and he ranked No. 23 on this list.

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was third on his team behind the NFL's leading receiver (Wes Welker) and the NFL's touchdown king (Rob Gronkowski). Hernandez missed two games but caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns. He would have led the New York Jets and the Bills in receptions and finished two catches behind Miami Dolphins leader Brandon Marshall.

The only tight ends with more touchdowns than Hernandez last year were Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Jermichael Finley. With Gronkowski hobbled in the Super Bowl, Hernandez had eight receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. charted Hernandez for 503 yards after catches, sixth among all wide receivers and tight ends, second to Gronkowski among tight ends and 184 yards more than the next closest AFC East tight end, Dustin Keller.

PFF also had him down for 23 tackles missed or broken, most among all NFL receivers and tight ends.

Fast fact

In his final four regular-season games, Hernandez had 25 catches for 387 yards (15.5-yard average) and two touchdowns and five rushing attempts for 45 yards.

How acquired

Selected in the fourth round (113th overall) of the 2010 draft.

Hint about No. 21

He had a breakout season in 2010, but was plagued by injuries last season.

Picks to date

22. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots tight end
23. Marcell Dareus, Bills defensive tackle
24. Antonio Cromartie, Jets cornerback
25. Eric Wood, Bills center

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |