We’ve discovered the perfect prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft for the New England Patriots.
Unfortunately, he plays the two positions with the lowest level of need on the Patriots’ roster.
We’ll identify him later in this post.
The Patriots do not need a tight end. Let’s get this out of the way now.
They drafted Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, then signed Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry in free agency this offseason. And they still have Matt LaCosse on their 90-man roster. But we’re completionists in this draft fits series, we wouldn’t put anything past the Patriots, so it’s entirely possible that they’ll add another player at the position in this year’s event.
So, let’s take a closer look at what the Patriots typically value when drafting the position. Perhaps surprisingly, size doesn’t play a major factor. The Patriots do like a strong tight end with above-average speed, and good agility and change-of-direction.
Here is the Patriots’ full drafting history at tight end since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000:
We devised a system to rank the 2021 NFL Draft tight end prospects using the average NFL Scouting Combine and pro day measurements of players drafted by the Patriots.
We standardized each prospect’s pro day measurements with the average measurements and standard deviation of players drafted by New England, then summed those totals for our “Score” metric. We only summed the most important measurements (40-yard dash, 3-cone drill, short shuttle, vertical leap and bench press) for our “Key” metric.
We then made an all-encompassing weighted “Fit” metric.
We included the top fullbacks in this year’s class. We also included wide receiver Jacob Harris, since he’s listed as a tight end in Dane Brugler of The Athletic’s draft guide. Finally, we threw in quarterback Feleipe Franks, because we were curious to see how the seventh-round prospect would stack up among tight ends. Franks is worthy of a shot as a quarterback, but similar to former Virginia Tech QB and current Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas, Franks potentially has the size and athleticism to switch positions if signal-calling doesn’t work out for him.
Here are the 2021 tight end prospects sorted by draft ranking (via DraftScout.com).
And here are the top 20 prospects sorted by our Patriots “Fit” ranking.
Let’s pick the best tight end for New England in each round of the 2021 NFL Draft:
First Round: Kyle Pitts, Florida
The Patriots probably won’t have the opportunity to draft Pitts, since he’s expected to be selected well before New England is picking 15th overall in the first round. He also wouldn’t be the most obvious trade-up candidate since the Patriots already added Smith and Henry this offseason.
He’s definitely a fit, however, and he’d probably be the best overall pass catcher on the Patriots’ roster. If anyone would be willing to run a three-tight end set, it’s Belichick.
Second Round: Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
Freiermuth didn’t test because of a right shoulder injury. He’s the latest in a long line of tight ends to earn the “Baby Gronk” moniker.
He put up 23 catches for 310 yards with a touchdown in just four games in 2020. He hails from Merrimac, Mass.
Third Round: Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame
Tremble impressed at his pro day with a 4.65-second 40-yard dash, 1.56-second 10-yard split, 36.5-inch vertical leap and 10-feet, 2-inch broad jump. He only caught 35 passes for 401 yards with four touchdowns in two seasons with the Fighting Irish before declaring early for the draft.
He’s a solid blocker and could develop into a better receiving threat.
Fourth Round: Kylen Granson, Southern Methodist
He’s slightly undersized at 6-foot-2, 241 pounds and projects as a fullback, H-back or flex tight end in the NFL. Grandon caught 129 passes for 1,879 yards with 16 touchdowns between his time at Rice and SMU.
Fifth Round: Zach Davidson, Central Missouri
Davidson is the player we reference in our lede. He played tight end and was Central Missouri’s full-time punter for three seasons before the Mules’ 2020 season was canceled because of the pandemic. He’s also the third-best fit for New England based on our metric.
Davidson, who’s 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, caught 40 passes for 894 yards with 15 touchdowns in 13 games for Central Missouri in 2019. He had barely played tight end prior to his sophomore year in college, primarily serving as his high school team’s punter in Webb City, Mo., and as a freshman at Central Missouri.
On top of registering 51 college catches for 1,133 yards with 18 touchdowns, Davidson also punted 137 times for 5,812 yards with 29 50-yard punts, 48 punts placed inside the 20-yard line and 38 fair catches.
Davidson needs some time to develop in the pros, but he’s one of the best pound-for-pound athletes among tight end draft prospects this spring. His old-school ethics as a two-way player also might have Belichick, a noted punting affianado, salivating.
If only Davidson went to Navy or played lacrosse.
Sixth Round: Jacob Harris, Central Florida
Harris would need to bulk up to play tight end in the NFL, but he’s one of the best athletes in the entire 2021 draft class.
Seventh Round: Briley Moore, Kansas State
Moore transferred from Northern Iowa for his senior season and collected 22 receptions for 338 yards with three touchdowns in just nine games. His lack of length — just 31-inch arms — could scare some teams away.