UCLA’s tight end coach Derek Sage recently talked about what Devin Asiasi can bring to the table for the New England Patriots
New England Patriots insider Phil Perry recently talked with UCLA’s tight end coach Derek Sage about what Devin Asiasi brought to the table and how he can make an impact on a team like the Patriots in the NFL.
To start, the Patriots moved up in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft to select the second tight end taken off the board: Devin Asiasi 91st overall out of UCLA.
Asiasi (6’3, 257 lbs) is an immediate upgrade and adds much-needed athleticism and talent to the depleted and nonexistent tight end position for the Patriots last year. He will join a tight end group of Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo, as well as fellow rookies Dalton Keene and Rashod Berry.
In terms of production from the tight end position, the receiving grades in New England last season were not great by any means.
Pro Football Focus ranked Benjamin Watson as the 82nd best tight end (Izzo ranked 84th and LaCosse ranked 97th). PFF also ranked Matt LaCosse 57th in the NFL in terms of blocking, which was the best on the team last season (Watson ranked 98th and Izzo ranked 132nd).
When you look at the position group like this, it’s fair to say that the Patriots were not prepared for life without Rob Gronkowski and had one of the worst tight end groups in the entire league in 2019.
While playing in 16 games over the course of two seasons after transferring to UCLA, Asiasi totaled 50 receptions for 771 yards (15.4 yards per catch) and five touchdowns.
Asiasi was able to stretch the field and make large plays for the Bruins in 2019. He’s efficient in using his long arms (33 ¼ inches in length) to his athletic advantage to create separation from defenders, as well as running with long strides to get as much of a gain as possible on a play (4.73 40-yard dash).
Phil Perry got the inside scoop on Asiasi from a coach who knows him best
To get a better feel for the rookie tight end, Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston, talked with Asiasi’s tight ends coach from UCLA, Derek Sage, on the Next Pats Podcast about what he can bring to the table for the New England Patriots:
"“They [the Patriots] are getting a versatile player at the tight end position, which is kind of en vogue right now – kind of making a resurgence into the NFL and college football. I think he’s going to be able to stretch the field vertically and stretch the field horizontally, which is something we did with option routes a lot. He’s a good athlete who can sink his hips, drop his weight, and not really change his rate of speed, which I think is really what you’re looking for in a tight end position which has to be up down all around and do a little bit of everything.”"
Sage also added:
"“I think Devin is a good blend of what people are looking for at 6’3, 257 [lbs]. People say ‘you know, he’s not Gronk’, well nobody is. He’s [Gronk] almost 6’7, 258 lbs and his ability to run like Devin and block and all of this. But I think Devin gives you that versatility at 6’3, 257 [lbs] that is kind of in between and can do both and be really athletic. But in terms of the RAC (run after the catch) which we focus on a lot in our program, we tell the tight ends since they’re much bigger bodies to get down to pad level with a defensive back that is trying to take your knees out because you’re a bigger guy. When you take an athlete that is well rounded like Devin and put some focus on that, you’re going to see guys getting hurdled and guys getting stiff-armed.”"
Sage is right. Gronkowski is incomparable and it’s definitely not fair to compare Asiasi to a player of Gronk’s stature.
However, Asiasi has the skills and a build that resembles Aaron Hernandez (6’2, 250lbs) — who helped alter the tight end position and totaled 1,956 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns during his three years playing in New England.
If Asiasi can resemble the immediate production of Hernandez, he will have a long and successful career playing with the New England Patriots.