The New England Patriots thought that they had the future of the tight end position locked down when they left the 2020 NFL Draft, as they spent a pair of third-round selections on UCLA’s Devin Asiasi and Virginia Tech’s Dalton Keene.
While Asiasi looked like a traditional athletic tight end, Keene was a much more interesting evaluation, as his athletic profile and the way that he was used at Virginia Tech hints that he could be used as a traditional in-line tight end, H-back, or even a fullback.
After an uninspiring rookie season, Bill Belichick decided he wasn’t going to wait around for these two Day 2 picks, as he spent oodles of available cash on arguably the two top tight ends on the market in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Keene’s road to playing time in 2021 was already bumpy, and now it has been closed for good.
Right after linebacker Raekwon McMillan was ruled out for the year with a torn ACL, Keene was placed on injured reserve due to a meniscus injury. In what was supposed to be a pivotal year for Keene, he will have to watch the entire season in street clothes on the sideline.
The Patriots might regret drafting Dalton Keene.
Keene recorded just three catches for 16 yards last year. To make matters worse, he fumbled on one of his three touches. That production would be disappointing from a sixth-round pick, let alone a third-rounder expected to fill several roles with Belichick’s offense.
Keene recorded just three catches, but Asiasi only has two to his name (albeit with one touchdown) after his rookie year. With Belichick apparently willing to accept those two picks as lost causes in order to build a winner around Smith and Henry, Keene’s time in New England might be running out.
Every place in which Keene could’ve earned playing time is blocked by a superior player. Not only is Henry likely to take over snaps at the in-line tight end position and Smith all but staking his claim to the H-back role, but Jakob Johnson appears to be the top choice at fullback. Keene is starting to run out of options.
While Keene is still a good athlete for the position, his first two years in New England will likely conclude with just three more catches than you or I recorded. He could look for a fresh start elsewhere, as Belichick’s offseason shopping spree appears to hint that he is moving on without him.