New England Patriots starting tight end Matt LaCosse will need to fight off not one but two exciting young rookie competitors at his position in 2020.
The New England Patriots were downright embarrassing at tight end in 2019.
Look, some downturn was obviously to be expected. As much as no one wanted it to happen, losing one of the greatest of all time at the position — Rob Gronkowski — in March of 2019 was a devastating blow. That’s not something you just patch up and move on from easily.
Still, no one could have predicted just how sorely the Patriots would miss Gronkowski last season — or how bad their collective tight ends would be for them.
Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, and Benjamin Watson were the top trio for New England on the year. It should be noted that Watson led the position in receiving yards with 173 — a measly total considering Gronk’s frequent 1,000-yard campaigns.
LaCosse and Izzo fared even worse, finishing with 131 and 114 yards apiece, respectively.
Watson at least has the excuse of being old at this point. Plus, he reportedly played through injury the entire season — and that was only after he elected to come back from retirement anyway.
LaCosse doesn’t have that excuse. He was 26 when he signed with the Pats last March and only had 20 games worth of tread on his tires after four seasons in the NFL.
He was essentially gift-wrapped the starting tight end job last season after Gronkowski’s surprise retirement and he did nothing with it. In 11 games, he had 13 receptions on 19 targets for 131 yards and one touchdown.
He’ll need to do better in his second year with the team — or else the worst-case scenario projection below may very well become the most-likely scenario projection for LaCosse in 2020.
Best-case scenario projection for 2020
In a best-case scenario for LaCosse, he exerts his control over the position and asserts himself as the starting tight end for the Pats in 2020 and beyond. The team dumps Izzo and probably one of their two rookie draft picks at the end of the year, buoyed by their newfound confidence in LaCosse.
LaCosse probably won’t be counted amongst the best tight ends in the league no matter how well he plays this season, so make no mistake: starting and finishing the year as TE1 for the Patriots is absolutely the best-case scenario projection for him in 2020.
Worst-case scenario projection for 2020
LaCosse continues to do nothing on the field that might create some separation between him and his competitors. While he might not be threatened by Izzo, he should be threatened by the Patriots’ back-to-back third-round draft picks this April: Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene.
One of the two of them — or perhaps both — will be ready and waiting should LaCosse stumble at any point in the coming days.
Rookie tight ends typically struggle to adjust to the pros their first season out of college, so at least LaCosse has that going for him.
But if that classic football truism doesn’t hold true in 2020 and either Asiasi or Keene breaks through, it will be LaCosse who suffers most.