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 Dalton Keene, who was picked 101st overall by the Patriots out of Virginia Tech to improve the depth and developmental upside of the team’s tight end position. A versatile player who has experience playing from multiple positions, Keene could carve out a prominent role rather early during his tenure in New England.
That said, just like every rookie, he does not enter the NFL without questions. For example, he suffered a few injuries over the course of his college career. Let’s take a closer look at them to find out whether or not they should be seen as a cause for concern.
2018 (sophomore): Following his sophomore campaign, Keene underwent what he described as a clean-up on his knee in response to an injury suffered at an undisclosed point during the 2018 season. The injury was apparently only a minor one, though, considering that he did not miss any of Virginia Tech’s 13 games that year. The procedure and subsequent recovery did force Keene to sit out spring practices in 2019, but he was back on the field in the summer and did not miss any games during his junior season.
2019 (junior): Speaking of his junior season: Keene did appear in all 13 of the Hokies’ games in 2019, but was forced to end his team’s game against Old Dominion in September on the sidelines. According to Virginia Tech’s head coach, Justin Fuente, he was held out after getting “shaken up” on a goal line play in the second half. Keene was back on the field one week later against Furman, though, and finished the contest with two catches for 14 yards.
What this means for the Patriots
Keene is entering the NFL with no injuries on his résumé that should necessarily be classified as worrisome. His knee might be worth keeping an eye on, but a) his clean-up already happened one year ago, and b) he did not seem bothered by it during both the 2018 and the 2019 seasons. Accordingly, the Patriots should not worry about the issue when it comes to the outlook for his rookie campaign and beyond. Furthermore, him getting shaken up last year also is no real cause for concern.
Just like fellow third-round rookie Devin Asiasi, Keene is therefore arriving in New England fully healthy. In turn, he should play a prominent role in the competition for practice reps and playing time at tight end over the course of the summer alongside Asiasi as well as returning veterans Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo.