The rebuild is on in Foxboro, and the New England Patriots have turned to the NFL Draft to lay the groundwork for the next era of football under head coach Bill Belichick.
With the greatest quarterback in NFL history departing, as well as key pieces on the defense and coaching staff moving on, the Patriots entered uncharted waters for the first time in a very long time.
After 20 seasons of consistency that included nine trips to the Super Bowl and six league championships, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio have looked to address team needs through the draft; a necessity due to the team's tight salary cap situation.
One of the areas of need was tight end, which was addressed in a major way on Night Two of the draft on Friday.
The Patriots first took UCLA tight end Devin Asiasi, with the 91st overall pick. Ten picks later, after completing a trade with the New York Jets, New England moved into draft slot number 101 to take Virginia Tech's Dalton Keene.
With Asiasi, the Patriots have an excellent pass threat at tight end, who brings speed and athleticism to a position that was lacking consistent production a year ago. He's a work-in-progress as a blocker, but brings a receiving threat in the passing game that will be welcomed to Foxboro. He'll fit well.
In Keene though, the Patriots hit the jackpot. He is a prototypical Bill Belichick pick as a tight end.
Keene is 6'4" 250 lbs. and is a very good blocker in the run game. His versatility is apparent, as he lined up all over the field for Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen. Whether split out wide, on the line of scrimmage as a traditional tight end, or in the backfield as a running back or h-back, Keene brings positional versatility that will suit him well in New England.
Allow me to illustrate in a series of highlights, courtesy of David Cunningham.
Dalton Keene Blocking, Part One
Dalton Keene Blocking, Part Two
Dalton Keene as a Receiver, Part One
Dalton Keene as a Receiver, Part Two
Dalton Keene as a Receiver, Part Three
Keene brings elusiveness and flexibility to the offensive side of the football, which is no doubt what attracted Bill Belichick and the Patriots' staff to him as a draft prospect. Belichick and the Patriots have made a living off of players who can impact the game in multiple ways, whether it be on the defensive side of the ball, or in the case with Keene, on the offensive side of the ball.
After seeing the versatile roles that the likes of Aaron Hernandez, Martellus Bennett, and Rob Gronkowski were able to carve out for themselves in the Patriots offense for portions of the last decade, it is no secret why both Keene and Asiasi were selected by New England on Friday night.
And for former Hokie Dalton Keene, it seems like the perfect fit at the perfect time.