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NFL Draft: Patriots double dip with two tight ends – Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene – late in third round

Linebacker Anfernee Jennings, an All-SEC selection, has seen his fair share of success rushing the quarterback at Alabama.Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

The Patriots took another linebacker and double-dipped at tight end in the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday.

New England stuck with defense first, using the No. 87 overall pick on Alabama outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings. Later, they traded with the Raiders to move up and take take UCLA tight end Devin Asiasi with the No. 91 pick, then traded up with the Jets to take Virginia Tech tight end Dalton Keene with the No. 101 pick.

To move up for Asiasi, the Patriots gave Las Vegas the Nos. 100, 139, and 172 picks, and got back Nos. 91 and 159. To move up for Keene, New York received Nos. 125, 129, and a 2021 sixth-round pick.


“I think the expectation was there probably would be some degree of movement here today,” said Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio. “We started the day with five picks, ended the day with five picks, kind of got there in an indirect way.”

Jennings, listed at the NFL Combine as being 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 256 pounds, was a first-team All-SEC selection, a three-year starter, and a Senior Bowl invitee.

Jennings is more of a traditional 3-4 outside linebacker than Josh Uche, the linebacker the Patriots took in the second round, and projects as a player who can set the edge. He and Uche will help the Patriots restock at linebacker after they lost Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins in free agency.

Jennings has big-play ability in addition to his effectiveness against the run. He had eight sacks in 2019 and led Alabama in pass breakups in 2018 with 12.

Jennings is the third player in as many picks the Patriots have drafted who went to the Senior Bowl. He also comes from Alabama, where Bill Belichick has well-known ties to Tide coach Nick Saban.


Asiasi is the first tight end the Patriots have drafted before the fifth round since 2010, when they took Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. That was also the last year before this one in which the Patriots took two tight ends in the same draft.

Asiasi (6-3, 257 pounds) is big enough to help both blocking and receiving. Asiasi, 22, should have an opportunity to contribute quickly in New England, where last year’s leading tight end, Ben Watson, gained only 172 receiving yards and then retired. The Patriots went into the draft with only Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo on the depth chart at tight end.

Asiasi caught 44 passes for 641 yards and four touchdowns last season for the Bruins. A California native, Asiasi origially chose Michigan and played in 13 games for the Wolverines before transferring to be closer to home, which forced him to sit out 2017. He played a smaller role in 2018 before breaking out last season.

Keene (6-4, 253 pounds) is an excellent athlete who ran a 4.71 40-yard dash and a 7.07-second three-cone drill at the Combine. He was not particularly productive in his three seasons with the Hokies, catching 59 passes for 748 yards and eight touchdowns, while also carrying the ball 11 times for 33 yards in some stints at halfback.

Last season, Keene caught 21 passes for 240 yards. Keene, who just turned 21, is considered a versatile player.


It’s rare for the Patriots to trade with division rivals, but Belichick had already made his first trade with the Jets last summer when he sent Demaryius Thomas to New York for a 2021 sixth-round draft pick — possibly the one that’s going back to the Jets in this trade.

Nora Princiotti can be reached at nora.princiotti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NoraPrinciotti.