When the Patriots drafted tight end Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in last month’s draft, it harkened back to the 2010 draft when the Patriots drafted Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Gronkowski and Hernandez made an immediate impact and Gronkowski went on to become arguably the greatest tight end in NFL history.
Patriots fans are hoping that Asiasi and Keene could produce similar results to Gronkowski and Hernandez but that might be a tall task. Even if the two don’t approach the numbers Gronkowski and Hernandez put up their rookie season, they can still help the team.
The Patriots got nothing from the tight end position last season so in many ways, they can only go up from here.
So how could the Patriots utilize Asiasi and Keene? Here are some examples.
Diagram 1: Asiasi is more of a vertical threat who can separate after the catch. He was the best vertical threat at the tight end position in the draft. Here he runs a seam. The quarterback could throttle this bootleg, set up and look for him down the middle of the field. Especially against two high safeties.
If the vertical routes aren’t there, Keene could be a viable option in the flat on the leak route. Keene excelled at Virginia Tech at coming out of the backfield on similar routes. As a move tight end, expect him to slip out on routes like this a lot.
Diagram 2: As I mentioned in the previous diagram, Asiasi is the best vertical tight end in this draft class. He runs hard, precise routes vertically and can separate on the break. Here, the Patriots use a compressed formation to create a free release. Asiasi runs the POCO or post corner route from an on line alignment. Against Cover 2, he would he would have a one on one match up with the safety.
On the backside, Keene would run the backside wheel route. This route concept has become a staple of teams that boot and half set away a lot. If you can hold a backside corner or safety with a complementary route, the wheel can come open late. Keene ran a lot of similar route concepts to this at Virginia Tech. He was the primary receiver on throwback concepts.
Diagram 3: This is a play “Flag” concept. It is a variation of the Snag concept. Asiasi would run the corner route. Keene is the wing. He would go in motion and settle between the tackle and the tight end. On the snap, he would bluff release into the flat. The primary read for the quarterback is the spot route. If its open, the quarterback takes it now. The progression is corner, spot to flat. The flat receiver is open a lot in a concept like this. Expect the Patriots to move Keene around a lot and release him fast to the flat.
Diagram 4: I would expect the Patriots to run a fair amount of throwback screens to Keene. As I mentioned earlier. Keene is terrific on throwback plays He knows how to be patient and set up routes.
The Patriots are expecting big things out of Asiasi and Keene. Both are talented players that could contribute right away and give the Patriots some much needed production from a position that was sorely lacking last season.