Judging by the general reaction of the hysterical, undermedicated imbeciles who call into Boston sports radio shows to the first two nights of the draft, people did not expect the Patriots to go defense, defense, defense, tight end, tight end in the first 101 picks. The consensus seems to be that they should've gone wide receiver early on, because people want them to go wide receiver early on every single draft and then cry the buckets if the receiver doesn't turn out to be rookie Randy Moss. And they wanted them to go quarterback, because people are stupid and don't realize Jarrett Stidham would be a Top 5 QB in this draft class, at minimum.
But the biggest Patriots need was tight end, and it's not even close. And while Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio will insist as always that they draft for talent, not need, they used their last two picks to fill the gaping Sarlacc pit that was tight end last year. To me, the failure to address that position last year is the single biggest personnel mistake in the 20 year history of the Dynasty. And Friday night was the course correction.
What little we know about what sort of tight end Belichick swipes right for can probably best be explained in that memo he wrote when he took over the Browns in 1991:
And I don't think much has changed. Belichick's type is a pass receiver with good hands who can get off a jam and into his routes. Run blocking is a nice skill to have, but not a deal breaker. He can always find a Michael Hoomanawanui type for that. As long as a guy is big enough to get in a defender's way and tie him up, that'll do. And yards after the catch are huge.
Which brings us to the two guys he selected to hopefully give Stidham the kind of versatile, multi-skilled two-tight end "Joker" offense the team hasn't truly had since Aaron Murnandez went to Hell by way of the Bristol County House of Corrections.
Pick No. 91: Devin Asiasi, UCLA. 6-foot-3, 257 pounds, 4.73 40-time
Asiasi was the second tight end to come off the board after consensus No. 1 Cole Kmet. And he's the highest tight end selection by the Pats since the took Gronk in the second round in 2010. The first thing you do is look at his size/speed combination and it's hard not to position-profile him into one of those third tackle types Belichick says he's not interested in. But he's a more athletic and dynamic route runner than his tank-like build would suggest. And he's the best YAC guy in the Class of 2020, with the ability to not just run through tackles, but around and, at times, leap over them. As a matter of fact, on his 44 receptions last year, he broke six tackles. Which might sound familiar if you've been watching the Patriots since Round 2 of 2010. He's tough to jam at the LOS and has a decent variety of moves for getting off the block. Plus a surprising suddenness going in and out of his breaks. He's also 23, having spent a whole year at Michigan where he made all 13 starts before transferring back to his home state, with Jim Harbaugh's coveted seal of approval. He also played in multiple systems at UCLA, first being recruited by Jim Mora with his pro-style offense, and then transitioning to Chip Kelly's, and was productive in each. He's still relatively inexperienced though, with only 148 career receiving yards before having a breakout final season with 641. And for all his relative lack of top end speed, he still averaged 15.2 YPC. More than anything, he's going to give Stidham a big target who will outfight defenders on contested catches.
Compares to the Other Leading Brand: Austin Hooper
Pick No. 101: Dalton Keene, Virginia Tech. 6-foot-4, 253 pounds, 4.71 40-time
Keene is an interesting, smooth blended cocktail of size, speed and agility. At the Lucas Oil Olympics, he was eight in the vertical jump, fourth on the weight bench, and third with a remarkable 7.07 in Belichick's favorite "Survivor" Immunity Challenge, the 3-cone. A score of sub-7.00 is considered ideal for a 5-11 defensive back, never mind an inline Y-tight end. What kind of a route runner he'll be is a mystery, since he was hardly used in VA Tech's offense in his three seasons as a starter. His career high in targets was 33 two seasons ago. And according to Pro Football Focus, his average yards per target was just 4.4 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. So think check downs, flats, curls and screens. Which seems to me to be a ridiculous waste of all those skills he displayed at the Combine. Still, he managed to score five times on his 21 receptions as a junior. In all he caught 59 passes for 748 yards and eight TDs while starting 38 of 39 games. The worst thing about his college career isn't that they didn't use him much. It's that his nickname was "Rambo," because of his hairdo. Which is a ridiculous, unforgivable waste of a perfectly good opportunity. Kids today don't appreciate the classics.
Compares to the Other Leading Brand: Blake Bell