Former Virginia Tech football star, Dalton Keene didn’t have the start to his NFL career than he expected. He’s run into a few bumps during his rookie year but will be looking to have more of an impact during his second season.
Here is a look at his college career and how he got to the New England Patriots.
Virginia Tech football career
Coming out of high school, tight end Dalton Keene was a three-star recruit and fifth-ranked player out of Colorado in 2017, according to 247Sports. Keene would go on to make a name for himself throughout his three years at Virginia Tech.
Keene played in every game his freshman year, starting all but one of them. His reception numbers were low though as he accounted for only 10 catches and 167 yards in 2017.
He saw a massive leap in terms of offensive production during his sophomore year. He finished the season with 28 receptions for 341 yards and three touchdowns. One of those receptions was a 67-yard catch against Duke, which was the longest in his career.
His junior season saw him evolve more into the versatile tight end that we see now. He was used in the running game a more efficiently registering 33 yards on 11 carries. Keene also had 21 receptions and 240 yards for five touchdowns on the season. His career-best game came against Miami when he had five receptions for 73 yards and three touchdowns.
After a successful Virginia Tech football career, Keene opted to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
NFL journey so far
Keene was drafted in the third round with the 101st overall pick by the New England Patriots in the 2020 NFL Draft. It was a bit of a shock pick by Bill Belichick and company with the tight end position not being a big priority and Keene not exactly fitting the Patriot’s game plan.
His rookie season made Keene face a lot of setbacks. It was a disappointing start to his NFL career as he only played in six games. He struggled with getting playing time as well as injuries that saw him spend time on IR. He saw his first NFL action in week seven against the San Francisco 49ers. He finished the season with three receptions for 16 yards. Keene will be looking to have a much better year this season and earn more playing time.
Keene will be in a crowded tight end room with some strong veteran talent with Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith joining New England this season. Keene, however, has a ton of talent and is an extremely versatile and hard-working tight end that could earn a good bit of playing time this season.
He will most likely be used as a blocking tight end but he has the pass-catching capability to grab a ton of passes when he’s targeted. He could be used as a short-yardage runner as well. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots uses Keene but it should be expected that he see some more playing time during the 2021 season if he can stay healthy.