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Patriots rookie comparisons: Dalton Keene, Tight end/Superback

Related: Patriots rookie comparisons: K Justin Rohrwasser

New England Patriots Training Camp Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In an effort to put an end to the long-standing question of “Who does he remind me of?” Keagan Stiefel has compiled a list of player comparisons for the New England Patriots’ 2020 draft class. Each will get a pro comparison and a comparison to a current or former Patriot. Now, these rookies are not necessarily going to become those that they are compared to, but they share similarities in terms of playing style.

Dalton Keene and I have been on an emotional rollercoaster together, he just doesn’t know it. Pre-draft I raved about how he could be a steal in the late rounds or as an undrafted free agent. When the Patriots made him the 101st selection in April’s draft, I was openly critical of the pick, and since then I have fallen in love with all the idea of how he may be used in Josh McDaniels’ new-look offense.

Together we will explore the possibilities of how Keene may be used, and who can be the inspiration for his role.

The Player

  • Dalton Keene
  • Position: Tight end/Superback
  • Height: 6’4”
  • Weight: 251 lbs

Dalton Keene is so much more than your traditional tight end, that is why I’ve slapped him with the “superback” tag. Danny Vitale, the man who made the term superback famous, signed with the Patriots in March but opted out in July due to concerns over the Coronavirus pandemic. I believe the Patriots had special plans for how they would use Vitale, so due to his opt-out they may try and find someone else to fill that role. That man is Dalton Keene, who did it all at Virginia Tech.

Keene and fellow rookie Devin Asiasi have a lot on their collective plate as they head into the season. Having two rookies carry your entire tight end group is risky as is, so having Keene try to do multiple things Year One may not be a path the Patriots want to send him down. Nevertheless, his makeup tells me that at some point this is a role he fits in and can excel at, just like the man he will be compared to.

Pro Comparison

  • Kyle Juszczyk
  • Position: Fullback
  • Height: 6’1”
  • Weight: 240 lbs

This is my hill to die on and it has been for a while.

This comparison doesn’t have the similarities in size like Anfernee Jennings/Harold Landry or in journey-to-the-league like Devin Asiasi/Austin Hooper; it is based solely in role. Even though he hasn’t gone as far as to call himself one, Kyle Juszczyk is the definition of a superback, lining up all over the offense and fulfilling a number of different roles. Both he and Keene do a little bit of everything from everywhere.

There’s a pretty big size difference between these two as Keene has three inches and about 10 pounds on Juszczyk. A positive that comes out of that is his length and ability to get to the football in the passing game. Juszczyk is more fluid and runs much better routes but that is something that can be improved upon with experience. There also isn’t as big of a gap in their blocking as you would expect. Keene is a hell of a blocker from the backfield, at tight end, and in the slot:

The comparison to Juszczyk is admittedly with eyes on the future. I’ve seen a lot of Keene and every time I watch him I think about how Josh McDaniels is going to have a lot of fun using him like the San Francisco 49ers employ their superback. With Cam Newton at the helm of a revamped offense, the comparison may become evident sooner rather than later.

Patriot Comparison

  • Michael Hoomanawanui
  • Position: Tight end
  • Height: 6’4”
  • Weight: 265 lbs

Did I say something about using tight ends in creative ways? “Hoo-man” was a fan and teammate favorite during his time in New England from 2012 to 2015. During that time, he was a bit of a Swiss Army Knife for Josh McDaniels, something that I obviously believe Keene will be.

A good way of showing Hoomanawanui’s versatility is by breaking down his touchdowns throughout his career. Of his eight career scores, two came as a traditional in-line tight end; two came in a jumbo tight end set; two came out of the backfield; one came as an off-set tight end; one came from the slot. No matter where he was, his versatility always showed just like Keene’s does.

Here is an example of them coming out of the backfield making a non traditional tight end kind of play:

I would also be remiss to talk about “Hoo-man” and not give you a little treat:

Overall, in terms of potential I think Keene is limitless. At the very least he will be a serviceable tight end who plays a long time in the league. If he’s used as a do-it-all guy in a quick-hit offense he has the potential to be a game changer.