Whether or not Rob Gronkowski returns next season, the Patriots are likely to draft a tight end. Why? Bill Belichick has a soft spot for the position. He’s selected a dozen tight ends during his time in Foxboro. Moreover, it’s hard to believe Dwayne Allen and Martellus Bennett are both going to be around, even if they are technically still under contract. Let’s just say there’s not enough bang for the buck. They’re making too much money. Maybe the Pats take a flyer on free agent Tyler Eifert. He’s coming off back surgery and needs to have a healthy, prove-it type of year given his injury-riddled history. Or maybe they go back to Belichick’s wheelhouse. There’s no slam-dunk option, but that doesn’t mean the Patriots won’t find a decent tight end to develop. “No Gronkowskis in this draft,” said NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly, on hand at the scouting combine. “It’s a huge loss if he’s not there. But, they’ll need a pass-catching tight end. Allen is a blocker. Gronkowski does both. But if they go into the draft, they’ll likely get a pass catcher who won’t have the ability anywhere near Gronkowski as a blocker. Gronkowski is a once-a-generation player, with his receiving and blocking ability.” So we’ve established the obvious. What’s left? NFL Network’s Mike Mayock has South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst (6-5, 250) as the top tight end. It’s hard to know if he’ll go in the first round, especially with all the quarterbacks expected to be taken. Unless Gronkowski retires — his agent Drew Rosenhaus yesterday told “PFT Live” there was no timetable on him making a decision — it’s hard to believe the Pats would jump on a tight end with their first-round pick.