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Patriots roster tier: The tight ends and fullbacks

Related: Patriots roster tier: The wide receivers

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Oh how the mighty have fallen. After having the greatest tight end in NFL history (I said what I said) occupy their position room for nine years, the Patriots’ tight ends endured one of the worst years of production out of a single position group in recent memory. Last year’s crew combined for 37 catches, 419 yards, and two touchdowns. To put that in perspective, there were 18 individual tight ends who out-produced the entire group in all three categories. That is bad.

Now, entering 2020, the team will be without the man who played fullback for them for the last eight years. There is therefore a real chance that not a single player carries over from last year into 2020 at either one of these positions. So, I am going to take a stab at who I think will be relied upon to help resurrect some of that sorely missed production.

Before we get into it, please check out the tiers we’ve done so far:

Also follow me on twitter @keaganstiefel. Let’s do the damn thing.

In order: Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Dan Vitale, Matt Lacosse, RaShod Berry, Jakob Johnson, Jake Burt, Ryan Izzo

The Guy

N/A — Given the fact that the players returning have done virtually nothing and all other players have yet to prove themself, I figured this was a safe bet.

Roster Locks

Devin Asiasi — Asiasi is obviously going to make the roster, he was the second tight end off the board in April. Besides that, he is coming into the season as the most well-rounded tight end on the team. He played in a system that Bill Belichick is comfortable with at UCLA under Chip Kelly, and was especially productive for a tight end in that offense. He is athletic and bullied defensive backs after the catch at times. He should enter Week 1 as the starter.

Dalton Keene — I love Dalton Keene. I have been high on him for a few years now and was all over him in my pre-draft coverage. I even mocked him to the Pats (as well as other players who I will mention when the time comes) early in the process. I initially viewed Keene as a late-round guy who might be able to compete for a “super back”-type role, but given his draft spot (third round, 101st overall), I believe the Patriots will employ him in a more traditional way. I see him being used in the way Seattle has used former Patriot Jacob Hollister: he will be a traditional tight end with fullback flexibility instead of the other way around.

Danny Vitale It’s super back season baby! Danny Vitale is not a traditional fullback like James Develin and that is exactly why I think he’s going to make this roster. With a new quarterback, I believe Josh McDaniels is going to open things all the way up, this means taking inspiration from other coaches like Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Vitale is going to be to McDaniels what Kyle Juszczyk is to Shanahan, a do-it-all guy who can line up in multiple spots and do multiple things well. His responsibilities could range from lead blocking in short-yardage situations to being asked to line up in the slot and running seam routes. I am excited to see what the guy does.

Fringe Roster Guys

Matt LaCosse — This season should be looked at as a fresh start for Matt LaCosse. After struggling with injuries through 2019, he has a chance to be the leader in the tight end room, in the same way Alge Crumpler was in 2010. Similar to that season, the Patriots are entering the year with two rookie tight ends, and similar to that year I believe there’s one more spot for a veteran to show the young guys the ropes, LaCosse is the best option for that role. He has a spot on this team.

Rashod Berry — We all read my profile on Berry a few weeks ago, and if not you should because it’s informative and I’m not writing it all out again. Berry’s versatility makes him a real candidate for a roster spot.

Jakob Johnson — Johnson is your more prototypical fullback, and carved out a serious role for himself before landing on injured reserve last season. He has special teams experience and even took snaps at defensive end in the preseason last year. If he grows as much this year as he did last, he will make this team.


Jake Burt — There isn’t much out there on Jake Burt, there will be an UDFA profile to come out on him soon but right now I just don’t see the qualities that he would need to set himself apart.

Ryan Izzo Izzo made the roster last year so anything is possible, but given the fact the Patriots addressed their tight end needs twice over in the draft it looks like his days are numbered in New England. He will have to do more than most to grab a roster spot.

Camp Body (No Chance in Hell)

N/A — The two long shots could have found themselves here but with these two groups being in the state they are in, would we really be surprised to see any of them make the roster?

No Chance List

  • Brian Lewerke
  • Gunner Olszewski
  • Sean Riley
  • Isaiah Zuber
  • Devin Ross

That will do it for now, check out my list on the offensive line next week and stay safe.