Patriots roster reset: Devin Asiasi leads TE youth movement

Andy Hart
June 03, 2020 - 1:36 pm
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Over the next few weeks, as we crawl closer to the hopeful opening of Patriots training camp later this summer, WEEI.com will take a position-by-position look at the New England roster following an eventful offseason of comings and goings.

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Tight end

Roster: Matt LaCosse (5th year), Devin Asiasi (rookie), Dalton Keene (rookie), Ryan Izzo (3rd), Jake Burt (rookie), Rashod Berry (rookie)

Key Additions: Devin Asiasi (3rd round, 91st)), Dalton Keene (3rd round, 101st)

Key Losses: Ben Watson (retired)

Projected Starter: Matt LaCosse

Biggest Question: After one breakout season at UCLA, can Devin Asiasi turn his youthful talent and versatility into rookie impact in New England?

Key Stat: t-45th – Where Benjamin Watson’s 17 catches, most among Patriots tight ends, ranked among league leaders at the position in 2019.

Overview: After Rob Gronkowski’s shocking-even-though-it-shouldn’t-have-been retirement announcement last March, New England’s tight end position was a black hole a year ago. Ben Watson came out of a short retirement of his own to bring little impact (17 catches for 173 yards) to the position after a season-opening suspension and being cut for a short time. Veteran Matt LaCosse battled injury all season and never found a way to offer much up as either a blocker or a receiver (13 catches for 131 yards and 1 touchdown). After a year on IR, former seventh-round pick Ryan Izzo had six catches for 114 yards. Not only did opposing defenses not have a tight end to fear, the players simply executed at a level well below average as the worst tight end group in the NFL. Fast forward to this spring’s NFL Draft, Bill Belichick invested a pair of third-round picks in Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene from a relatively lackluster crop of prospects. Asiasi caught 44 passes in his lone productive college season at UCLA after transferring from Michigan. He has the tools to be a NFL contributor, but certainly is far from a sure-thing. Keene is more of a jack-of-all-trades, H-back prospect having caught 59 passes over three seasons at Virginia Tech. Overly optimistic fans and analysts may want to try to compare the new tight end duo to the year the Patriots selected Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the second and fourth rounds, respectively. But neither 2020 newcomer is even close to that kind of prospect. Maybe LaCosse, who had 24 catches in Denver in 2018, can have a breakout second season in New England if healthy. Maybe Asiasi is an ascending talent ready to hit the ground -- and the Patriots complex offense – running to open his NFL career. More likely, though, is that the New England tight end position is going to be little more than an afterthought in the overall offense again in 2020, a spot with far more questions than reasonable answers.

Power Rating (1-5): *

While Asiasi and Keene have injected some youthful potential into the tight end position, the mid-round picks have to prove they can actually contribute if there is to be more production from the spot in 2020.

Related: Patriots roster reset: Is RB Sony Michel THE guy or just a guy?