Fire the Muskets: Belichick Adds Two TE's

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The Patriots had only two tight ends on their roster coming into the NFL Draft this weekend.  New England waited until the third round but they added two new tight ends to their roster, and they added two good ones.  They selected UCLA’s Devin Asiasi with the No. 91 pick in the third round and then traded up to select Virginia Tech’s Dalton Keene at No. 101.  The last time the Patriots selected two tight ends in the same draft was 2010 when they selected Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. 

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been very aggressive in this year's draft between trading back and up to get the players he feels are the best fit for his system.  This was true in order to acquire these two new tight ends, who will be new toys for potential new starter Jarrett Stidham.  Coming into the draft Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo were the lone two tight ends on the depth chart.  The team wasn’t able to be aggressive after the retirement of Gronkowski last year and the tight end position felt like an afterthought. 

Let’s take a closer look at the two newest tight ends for the Patriots offense. 

TE Devin Asiasi | UCLA

Photo courtesy of LATimes.com
New England traded up to draft Asiasi, and in the process they gave up three picks to draft the UCLA product.  Coming out of high school, Asiasi was the No. 12 recruit in the state of California.  After weighing a ton of scholarship opportunities he decided to leave his home state of California and play for the Michigan Wolverines.  He played in Michigan for one year before transferring back home and enrolling at UCLA. 
Last season at UCLA, Asiasi played all 12 games and had 44 catches for 641 yards with four touchdowns.  The 6-foot-3 and 257 pound tight end did well as a receiver tight end and he wasn’t afraid to block for the run game.  While the Patriots traded up for Asiasi, he might appear to be a project development pick for Belichick.  While scouts say his ability led him to be one of the best all-around tight ends in this draft, maturity might be an issue for the former Bruin.  He was suspended at the start of the 2018 season for “violation of team rules.”  The freakishly talented Asiasi will look to develop in the Patriots system and potentially become one of the next tight end greats.  Asiasi lands in a perfect spot in New England, who is desperate for talent at the tight end spot. 

TE Dalton Keene | Virginia Tech

Photo courtesy of HokieSports.com
I love the draft selection of Dalton Keene, and the Patriots showed they do too by trading up for the Virginia Tech standout and trading a future draft pick in the process.  The long-haired kid from Colorado, who went by the nickname of “Rambo” at Virginia Tech, was something of a Swiss army knife on the gridiron.  Keene will bring versatility to the Patriots offense, which has been something of a theme for the Patriots draft this year.  The feisty tight end played as a wing-back receiver out of the slot and a pass protector at Virginia Tech.  He also played on special teams which we all know that is near and dear to Belichick as he builds his roster. 

Virginia Tech Hokies gear at Fanatics.comPatriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio spoke very highly of Keene following the conclusion of Day 2 of the draft.  “Kind of an interesting guy, underclassman, really played, essentially from day one, a three-year starter.  Really had to kind of search for some things with him on tape.  He took advantage of his opportunities.  A couple of things that stood out were just some of his catch-and-run type plays.  Good size, 6-4 and change, call it 255, 260 (pounds).  Fairly athletic, tough kid, smart kid.”

The one thing I love about this pick of Keene is the comparison’s he is drawing from another All-Pro tight end, San Francisco 49ers George Kittle.  Keene is drawing comparisons to Kittle due to his size, versatility (there is that word again) and athleticism.  Keene played in 36 career games for the Hokies.  He made 59 catches for 748 yards with eight touchdowns.  “I had a ton of fun at Virginia Tech.  I loved it.  I loved every second of it,” Keene said.  “The Virginia Tech fans were awesome.  They made it so enjoyable just to play there.”

Keene has said he is modeling his game after the 49ers Kittle, who is arguably one of the most versatile tight ends in the game.  Kittle, who is a former fifth round draft selection out of Iowa, is a self made star in the NFL.  Kittle is a receiving nightmare for defenses and is a devastating run blocker.  If Keene can develop into a Kittle-type player the Patriots will be more than happy with the overall player he will become.  “He’s probably the most versatile tight end in the league, and I think he’s the best tight end in the league,” Keene said.

Keene will now come to New England with a fan base passionate about winning.  He will come to the Patriots, who are ushering a fresh start now that future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Tom Brady has moved on to Tampa Bay.  The former Hokies tight end will play alongside Asiasi and potentially Izzo and LaCosse, but it is unknown if both tight ends will stay on the roster.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Fire the Muskets: Belichick Adds Two TE's
Fire the Muskets: Belichick Adds Two TE's
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