Patriots

Relationship between Belichick, Ferentz will play sizable role in whether Patriots pursue Hockenson

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You need a new car? Helps if you have a good relationship with the dealer.

As the pre-draft process kicks into high gear, that’s the philosophy to keep in mind when you’re talking about the Patriots and the tight end position. With Rob Gronkowski retiring, New England is in the market for a new model. The best place to go? A school that produces NFL-ready tight ends on a fairly regular basis. And Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz has been pals with Bill Belichick for 30-plus years.

The bottom line? When it comes down to deciding on what to do come draft night, Belichick’s relationship with Ferentz will play a sizable role in deciding whether or not the Patriots push their chips to the middle of the table and trade up from No. 32 into the first half of the first round to get T.J. Hockenson.

Ferentz was on Belichick’s staff in Cleveland. Brian Ferentz — Kirk’s son — is the offensive coordinator with the Hawkeyes, a job he took after spending a year as the tight ends coach in New England. Another Ferentz son -- James -- is an offensive lineman for the Patriots. And at one point last year, for all the talk about Rutgers and Georgia providing a pipeline to Foxborough, Iowa was the best-represented school on the roster.

As far as Big 10 TV football analyst Gerry DiNardo is concerned, that’s not a coincidence. And portends good things when it comes to the possibility of Hockenson-to-New England.

“What I find interesting here is the relationship between Kirk and Bill and Brian and Bill,” said DiNardo. “Not only their relationship as coaches, but as friends. I can tell you that there are a lot of similarities between what the Patriots are doing and what Iowa is doing.”

DiNardo knows a little about whether or not college players meshing in Foxborough — when he was head coach at LSU, he coached future Pats like Kevin Faulk and Jarvis Green.

“Brian became