The New England Patriots have struggled with tight end production since 2018, when Rob Gronkowski retired from the team. So they took a big swing in the 2020 NFL Draft in selecting back-to-back tight ends in the fourth round that aren’t even on the team anymore, Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene.
In 2021, the Patriots took another swing at signing free agent tight ends, bringing in the top available players on the market in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. In doing so, New England guaranteed over $55 million combined to Henry and Smith, of which Smith isn’t even on the team anymore.
The Patriots parted ways with Smith this offseason and signed ex-Dolphins Mike Gesicki to a one-year deal. Pairing him with Henry creates a versatile duo for New England’s offense.
The only thing with this current duo of Henry and Gesicki is that they’re both unrestricted free agents in 2024. So it would have made sense for the Patriots to have drafted a tight end in this heavy class at any point during the weekend.
The Patriots have struggled with finding productive tight ends since Gronk left. That said, it seemed like it was a lock for New England to select a tight end in the heavy 2023 NFL Draft that concluded this weekend.
New England started the draft with the 14th overall pick. At that point in the draft, the Patriots could have selected the first wide receiver or tight end off the board. Instead, they went with the top corner in the draft.
The tight end I had the Patriots targeting was Luke Schoonmaker out of Michigan. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys’ 58th overall. However, the Patriots had the 46th overall pick and didn’t draft an offensive player until the fourth round.
With four original fourth-round picks and another four in the sixth round, it seemed likely the Patriots would’ve targeted a tight end this year. However, the Patriots may be able to re-sign Henry or Gesicki next season and target a tight end in the 2024 NFL Draft.
With Bill O’Brien running the offensive show this season, it’s still a bit of an unknown what he will do with the offense. Perhaps Henry and Gesicki are enough for O’Brien’s first-year vision. But even so, it’s still odd for them not to draft one with all the capital they had in this draft.
It’s worth mentioning that the Patriots signed a tight end to an undrafted rookie free agent deal after the NFL Draft, bringing in Louisiana tight end Johnny Lumpkin.
At 6-foot-5, 264 pounds, Lumpkin has a unique size for a tight end. In addition, he’s more of a blocking tight end than a pass-catching threat, as he’s somewhat inexperienced as a receiver- only 36 receptions for 408 yards in four years. It’s even possible Lumpkin could serve as a tackle, as he has the unique size and skill set to do so.
It seems like a missed opportunity for the Pats not to draft a tight end out of this class.