The New England Patriots made five total trades during the 2020 NFL draft, with four of them seeing the team move up the board to target specific players. Among them is Devin Asiasi, who was picked 91st overall by the Patriots out of UCLA to improve the depth and developmental upside of the team’s tight end position. A well-rounded prospect who has experience as both a receiver and an in-line blocker, Asiasi could carve out considerable snaps early on in his career.
That said, he does not enter the NFL without questions. For example, Asiasi has only 34 games at the collegiate level and a mere 13 starts on his résumé. Is this cause for concern, and what role does his injury history play in this? Let’s go through it to find out:
2015 (high school senior): When looking at Asiasi’s career so far, his health was only mentioned once: in a Bleacher Report article dating back to May 2015, before he was headed to the University of Michigan. The story by author Damon Sayles mentions that the four-star recruit hid “his eyes behind sunglasses worn on a cloudy day to cover a minor eye issue” during an interview. That issue never seemed to resurface, however, and did not seem to bother Asiasi at all throughout his time in college.
What this means for the Patriots
Asiasi is essentially entering the NFL with a clean bill from a health perspective: the rookie did not suffer any reported injuries throughout his college career, and the minor eye issue popped up only once during his final year at De La Salle High School. So why did the 23-year-old appear in comparatively few games during his four collegiate seasons? The answer for that question lies in the NCAA’s transfer rules as well as UCLA’s team policies.
Let’s start with the NCAA. Asiasi began his college career at Michigan, as noted above, but decided to move back home to California after only one season during which he appeared in 13 games and registered a pair of catches (one of which a touchdown, though). He decided to transfer to UCLA, but under NCAA rules was forced to sit out the subsequent season. His first game with the Bruins did therefore not take place until 2018.
However, Asiasi started his 2018 campaign three games later than his teammates: he was one of six players suspended at the beginning of the year for a “violation of athletic department policy.” The nature of this violation was never reported, and Asiasi eventually returned to the field as a backup tight end behind Caleb Wilson. He went on to play in nine games during the 2018 season, catching six passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.
What does all this mean for the Patriots? The team obviously has no reason to be worried about any injury history, and even his transfer and suspension are not necessarily cause for concern (otherwise, the team would not have drafted him and traded up to do so). As for the 2020 season, Asiasi is expected to enter it fully healthy which in turn should make for an interesting camp competition against veterans Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo as well as fellow third-round rookie Dalton Keene.