Patriots tight ends have been abysmal since the departure of Rob Gronkowski. Belichick and McDaniels were forced to shift their personnel to feature the position less than they would have liked to. Offensive game planning is all about creating mismatches, and tight end is one of the best positions to create those advantages.
Returning Tight Ends
Matt LaCosse – 6’6″ 255 lbs
LaCosse is not a player Patriots nation is excited about but he has the physical capabilities to be a dynamic player. Out of all the Patriots tight ends, LaCosse has the best combination of size and speed. He has soft hands and gets the job done as a blocker. Ben Watson took the starting role last season leaving LaCosse a very limited role in a struggling offense. A few nagging injuries limited his play time even more. He ended up with 13 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown.
At this point it seems unlikely LaCosse will ever develop into a weapon for the offense. That said, he does have the talent to make some plays in the passing game and has a good shot of making the roster. As it stands now LaCosse is first on the depth chart, and considering how long it typically takes for tight ends to develop, it might stay that way.
Ryan Izzo – 6’5″ 255 lbs
Ryan Izzo was a 2018 seventh-round pick by the New England Patriots. His rookie season ended before it even started as he was placed on Injured Reserve with a high ankle sprain. In reality, the Patriots probably used that injury as a way to let him sit out while being able to roster another tight end.
In 2019 his role was limited, and a concussion set him back even further. He was still able to make six receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown. Izzo was a quality run blocker for Dalvin Cook at Florida State but is not an athletic specimen that is going to create matchup problems. He struggles to create separation and can only really contribute by being schemed open. His 4.94 40-yard dash is a good indicator of why he struggles against man coverage though he can produce against zone. He is second on the depth chart as it stands right now. I expect that to change by week one.
NFL Draft Selections
Devin Asiasi – 6’3″ 257 lbs
People all around New England want to know if Devin Asiasi is the answer at tight end. Given last years lackluster performance at the position, the Patriots are rehauling the position with young talent. Belichick came in knowing that tight end is the biggest need on the roster. He finally pulled the trigger by selecting Asiasi in the third round (91st overall). Asiasi has a great situation in front of him, as he will be battling two career depth players and three other rookies drafted below him.
Devin Asiasi looks to be a solid athlete with good hands and quality route running. My favorite quality of Asiasi is his versatility. With Chip Kelly running the show at UCLA, Asiasi was asked to do a lot for the offense. You will see him lined up on the line, in the slot, on the outside and even in the backfield. He has a good burst off the line and can do damage up the seam. His blocking got the job done in college but needs work. He looks a little sloppy when setting blocks and his 16 bench reps don’t always seem to translate on the field. If he can clean up his footwork and get better leverage, I see no reason why he couldn’t be a good blocker.
Dalton Keene – 6’4″ 253 lbs
Keene was drafted 101st overall right behind Devin Asiasi. Dalton was asked to block regularly at Virginia Tech which limited his ability to rack up stats. His passion for the game stands out on film. He plays to the whistle on every down and is a rare breed — a skill position player that genuinely likes to block. Keene got a little tall on pass blocks but always found a way to halt the defender. His run blocking is very effective and he frequently drives defenders to the ground. His form is not always perfect as he tends to lead with his head down, but he still gets his defender out of the way. Keene does a great job clearing a path and leading the way for his running backs to run through. His teammates call him “Rambo” and his play reflects that nickname.
What makes Keene so interesting is his potential as a receiver. He got to the NFL by blocking but has the athletic ability to develop into a solid option in the pass game. I mentioned versatility for Asiasi. Keene’s H-back position was referred to as the Swiss Army knife of the offense. It’ll be interesting to see how McDaniels decides to use Dalton Keene, especially since both are comfortable with making constant adjustments. The tight end screen is something McDaniels has utilized before, and Keene might be the perfect player for those types of passes.
Undrafted Free Agents
Rashod Berry – 6’4″ 255 lbs
Berry is an interesting signing for New England. In college he started as a defensive end before moving to tight end his sophomore season. He showed the ability as a blocker with the best form of all the Patriots tight ends. There were rumors that Belichick may move Berry to Fullback. Recently there was some evidence that he may be moving to a position that was somewhat out of nowhere. After signing with New England, Berry updated his bio to say “OLB @ New England Patriots.” He has since removed the OLB from his bio. It’ll be interesting to see where the Ohio State product ends up.
Jake Burt – 6’3″ 260 lbs
Burt has only 23 receptions for 307 yards and 2 touchdowns to his name. He signed an $80,000 deal which is sizable for an undrafted free agent. Burt is a large, powerful run blocker that I expect to move over to fullback. Vitale will most likely handle the fullback duties this season, but Burt could be the long-term replacement for James Develin. There is a good chance that Jake Burt starts his career on the practice squad which would give him an opportunity to earn some snaps down the line.
Something to Note
Delanie Walker is still on the free agent market and could provide instant value as a safety blanket for Jarrett Stidham. We would have to free up some cap space to acquire the veteran playmaker but Belichick could certainly work that out.
If you liked this breakdown of the Patriots tight ends, check out the rest of the series: