By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Who the hell knows how much Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene will contribute at the NFL level. What matters right now is Belichick said Friday night was time for fresh blood. Day 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft marked the first time since 2010 (Gronkowski) that Belichick selected a tight end higher than the fifth round.
As you can say with literally every human that gets his name called on day 2-3 of the draft, it’s not like the Patriots are getting perfect prospects. Neither Asiasi nor Keene are the next Gronk. They’re at least not the same kind of player.
But watch Asiasi and Keene play from their time at UCLA and Virginia Tech, and you can see their potential as weapons in the Patriots offense.
The word everywhere on Asiasi was his ability to catch the ball and be a mismatch up the seam. The above video from the Patriots showcases Asiasi’s explosiveness when he gets upfield. And while Belichick does prefer his guys to ideally do more than just catch the ball, catching the ball remains at the top of the list. With Asiasi, there’s far less to develop with his receiving ability than there is with his blocking.
And if Belichick’s own scouting reports from 1991 are any indication, he feels that Asiasi has the kind of athleticism that he can work with as far as his blocking – and the receiving up the middle of the field is what truly drew him toward the tight end.
“#1 has to be a catcher, Ozzie Newsome, Keith Jackson types. Don’t need the [offensive line] type guy in a TE’s jersey. Take what we can get from him on the blocking, just gets in the way and tie up, we can work around his blocking ability – catch, run, block – #2 or #3 TE needs to be the blocker for situational running situations … 6’3”, 235 minimum type guy, needs to be big enough to get in the way.”
But if versatility is what Belichick really wants to get out of his tight ends in the future, then that would explain trading up to select Keene out of Virginia Tech. Projected as a sixth-rounder by Lance Zierlein at NFL.com, Keene may be viewed as a reach since the Patriots moved up in the third round to take him at pick 101.
But clearly, Belichick is prioritizing versatility throughout his 2020 draft class and Keene is overflowing with it. And the tape shows a lot to like about Keene, even if he’s not going to be a traditional tight end.
The reason for Keene’s low draft stock is pretty clear right away: he lacks the requisite size and strength to block in-line consistently, making him a less-than-ideal target as an every-down tight end. Keene’s real role is going to be more like an H-back, where the Pats can use him on or off the line and in a variety of ways as a pass-catcher. He can play fullback, block and catch in space, receive as both a tight end and pass-catching back. You can see some quickness and athleticism in Keene’s reel.
There’s reason to be confident that Belichick will find a way to make Keene a factor on offense.
Guaranteed? For either Asiasi or Keene? No. But there’s at least hope for the position now. The Pats didn’t have much of that with Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, and a 38-year-old Ben Watson manning their depth chart.
With these two picks, the Patriots’ offensive reset and new era at quarterback just got a lot more fascinating.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.