2020 NFL Draft: Patriots double-dip at tight end for first time since Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez draft

The last time the Patriots double-dipped at the tight end position at the NFL draft, they ended up reeling in some extremely talented players. Now, it looks like they are trying to catch lightening in a bottle once again. 

Ten years ago, at the 2010 draft, New England addressed tight end with two picks, snatching up Rob Gronkowski out of Arizona in the second round and Florida’s Aaron Hernandez in the fourth. From strictly an on-field standpoint, these selections hit for the Pats and, for a time, were arguably the best one-two punch at the position in the league. Of course, Hernandez’s heinous off-the-field acts derailed in his NFL career, but Gronkowski continued to flourish and is arguably the greatest to ever the play the position. 

As the Patriots put a bow on Day 2 of the 2020 draft, they once again decided to double up at tight end by bringing in UCLA’s Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene out of Virginia Tech in the third round. 

It’s obviously unfair to expect each of these players to have similar impacts as what both Gronkowski and Hernandez had for New England’s offense, but their additions are a clear sign by Bill Belichick and company that this has grown to become an area of weakness on their roster. 

After Rob Gronkowski retired from the league last offseason, New England production at tight end struggled mightily. Veteran Ben Watson led the position with just 173 yards receiving on the season in 2019, while no Patriots tight end caught more than a single touchdown. The position was essentially nonexistent from a pass-catching standpoint. Bringing in Asiasi and Keene is, at the very least, a step in the direction of righting the ship for New England at a position that is typically a key piece to their offense. It will likely also hold even more importance in 2020 if second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham is, in fact, the starter come September, as the tight ends do prove to be solid security blankets for rookie/first-year starters. 

Asiasi appears to be the more traditional of the two, as he’s your typical receiving tight end who is also a willing blocker. In 12 games for UCLA last season, the 6-foot-3, 257 pounder caught 44 passes for 641 yards and four touchdowns. He’s still raw, but could be a real threat on deep crossing routes and seam routes if he can tap into his potential. 

As for Keene, he’s a bit more versatile and could potentially serve as a similar weapon to Hernandez during his playing days with the Patriots. With Hernandez, New England lined him up all over the field. One moment he’d line up a tight end, the next he’s be in the slot and was even in the backfield at times. At Virginia Tech, Keene has shown a similar versatility. His stats with the Hokies won’t jump off the page, but the fact that New England was aggressive in jumping back into the third round to acquire him is telling in how much they value his skill set. 

Only time will tell on how much these two picks can actually impact New England’s offense and if it’ll even come close to what the club was able to haul in a decade ago with Gronkowski and Hernandez, but it shouldn’t go unnoticed that the Patriots are being especially aggressive in trying to fix what was a glaring problem last season. 

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