The New England Patriots manufactured a few different trades that allowed them to draft two tight ends in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
The New England Patriots went into the draft knowing that they needed to upgrade their tight end position. In doing so, New England traded picks and a future asset with the New York Jets and Las Vegas Raiders in order to get back into the third round.
These draft picks show that the Patriots were drafting for need — and it was a move taken straight from the 2010 Bill Belichick playbook.
This is the first time in 10 years that the Patriots have drafted multiple tight ends in the same year; taking it one step further, this is the first time Belichick has ever taken two tight ends in the same round of the draft, and only the third time in his career he has ever drafted multiple tight ends in the same draft.
We all remember how dynamic and dangerous it was utilizing the combination of both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in 2010. Although it was short-lived, the young duo was ultimately unstoppable and proved that the two tight end system is capable of working with the right pieces.
The tight end position became a position of need for New England with the sudden and brief retirement of Gronkowski in 2019. The Patriots went through the entire 2019 season with a depleted tight end crew that was led by 39-year-old Benjamin Watson and also included Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo, who all spent time on the injury report throughout the season.
Needless to say, this trio offered little to no production for the New England Patriots last season.
Devin Asiai is a young player with a lot of talent who was drafted out of UCLA as a junior. He is 6’3, 257 lbs, and was ranked the 12th best tight end in this year’s draft class.
Despite not getting much playing time until last year, Asiasi has 52 career receptions averaging 15.2 yards per catch for 771 yards and scored six touchdowns throughout his college career. He is explosive, can be used in multiple sets, and can help stretch the field in the passing game.
Asiasi also had a strong and confident-looking combine. He ran the 40 yard dash in 4.73 seconds, put up 16 reps on the bench press, had a 30.5 inch vertical jump, and he landed 115 inches on the broad jump.
Some of the scouts had said that Asiasi struggles with run blocking and adding protection to the ground game, but I don’t think that is necessarily true. I look at it as Asiasi rarely had to provide run blocking in the UCLA offense, and that it is nothing that the New England Patriots can’t work on and make him a more profound blocker.
Dalton Keene is an all around well rounded football player. Keene is 6’4, 253 lbs, and doesn’t look like your typical tight end. But he is tough, strong, and plays hard with a similar mentality to Julian Edelman, who regularly plays as if he is the biggest person on the field.
Keene carved out a role for himself in the Virginia Tech offense over the last three years. He finished his college career with 59 receptions averaging 12.7 yards per catch for 748 receiving yards and scored eight touchdowns. Keene is versatile and can be used in a variety of ways, including as a running back and specialist.
The former Hokie also had a rather impressive combine. He ran the 40 yard dash in 4.71 seconds, put up 21 bench press reps, had a 34 inch vertical jump, along with jumping 125 inches on the broad jump, 7 seconds on the 3-cone drill, and 4.19 seconds on the 20 yard shuttle. It seems typical, but the results of these drills are important to Belichick when it comes to drafting.
Keene is going to be a great addition to the New England Patriots. He has the size and frame of a tight end but plays like he is a powerful running back. Keene is going to be fun to watch in off the line sets where he can flex out and catch a screen pass or provide run support in blocking an outside linebacker or cornerback.
Hopefully Asiasi and Keene can become the lethal duo the New England Patriots are hoping to so badly have in their arsenal again.