Patriots: Tight end draft buzz continues to shed light on awful 2020 third-round picks
By Jerry Trotta
The New England Patriots worst season in two decades prompted media members to question de facto general manager Bill Belichick about his recent draft blunders. In a widely-panned look, he got defensive and refused to acknowledge that these mistakes have really contributed to the team’s current roster deficiencies.
Unfortunately for Belichick, you don’t have to look further than the third round of the 2020 draft to identify a pair of his most damning missteps, when he selected tight end tandem Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene to presumably play a prominent role on the offense right away.
We’ll get more into that later, but the two played so little throughout the course of the year that some fans probably forgot they were on the team. Their futures are anything but a guarantee and the Patriots unsurprisingly continue to be linked with some of the top prospects at the position set to enter the 2021 class.
Having already been linked fairly heavily with Florida star Kyle Pitts, who led the nation in several categories this past season despite missing time in concussion protocol, there is growing buzz surrounding Penn State stud Pat Freiermuth. In his latest column for ESPN, insider Mike Reiss had glowing reviews about him and his infatuation for Patriots legend Rob Gronkowski.
"“Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth, who projects as an early-round pick, is a Massachusetts native (Merrimac) who wore No. 87 in college,” Reiss wrote. “That’s why some referred to him as ‘Gronk.’ With the Patriots still looking to fill the void of Rob Gronkowski’s departure two years later, it would be a fun story if they turn to a prospect who admired Gronkowski as a youngster growing up about 70 miles from Gillette Stadium.”"
With the Patriots still having a glaring need at quarterback, we certainly don’t love the idea of drafting a tight end with the No. 15 overall pick. However, they also wouldn’t be in this position had Belichick hit on either one of those aforementioned selections.
Keene played sparingly throughout the year as he battled through a lingering knee injury. When all was said and done, he was active for six games (was targeted in just three) and logged three catches for 16 yards. Asiasi, meanwhile, appeared in nine contests and didn’t compile his first reception until the final week despite registering targets in each of the previous three games.
We fully commend Belichick for all that he’s accomplished with the Patriots, but it might be time for him to start conceding power in the draft room. In a perfect world, he would’ve knocked it out of the park with those picks — or just one of them, really — and the team would be poised to nab its future franchise quarterback at No. 15 overall.
Instead, however, the Patriots will likely have to spend money on an impending free agent tight end when it could be used to bolster another position of need, like defensive end or linebacker.