Without Rob Gronkowski, it’s clear the Patriots’ offense won’t rely on the tight end position nearly as much this season.
It will, however, need some production from a combination of several options. New England doesn’t have a clear, go-to weapon at TE, but it does have many players who are in the mix and hoping to contribute.
Ben Watson – The 38-year-old Watson, who racked up 20 touchdowns with the Patriots in five-plus seasons to start his career, is back in New England following many pit stops and a brief retirement. He’ll miss the first four games of the season after admitting to using testosterone. Watson, who stands at 6’3, 255 pounds, also left Thursday’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers after suffering a late hit to the head from Eric Reid. He left the field under his own power, and time will tell when he returns to action.
Matt LaCosse – According to Scout.com, the 6’6, 245-pound LaCosse is currently projected as the No. 46 tight end and owned in 5 percent of fantasy football leagues. In Week 1 and Week 2, however, Scout believes his stock goes up and he has a chance to earn at least four points in each matchup. He’s played 22 career games since 2015, including 15 last season when he caught 24 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown for the Denver Broncos.
Stephen Anderson – Anderson is on the smaller side for a tight end at 6’2, 230. The Patriots signed him to their practice squad in September 2018 after the Houston Texans originally signed him as a rookie free agent in May 2016. Much like LaCosse, Anderson turned in his best season in 2018, finishing with 25 receptions for 342 yards and a touchdown in 15 games with Houston. He suffered an undisclosed injury against the Carolina Panthers, eventually returning to the sideline but sitting out the remainder of the game.
Lance Kendricks – Kendricks has consistently produced throughout his NFL career, playing at least 15 games in all eight of his seasons and compiling 241 receptions, 2,505 yards, and 19 touchdowns in the process. He could end up playing a significant role for the Patriots, but he’ll be out Week 1 after violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Kendricks signed with the team in July. He’s eligible to practice and play the remainder of the preseason, and he can return to the roster on Sept. 9.
Eric Saubert – The 6’5, 254-pound Saubert started his career with the Atlanta Falcons. He didn’t catch any passes in 2017 and finished with five receptions in 2018. The Patriots acquired him earlier this month in return for a conditional seventh-round pick. He was the first player drafted from Drake University since 1983 after running a 4.65-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2017.
Ryan Izzo – Bill Belichick told reporters Izzo has good instincts as a receiver, and those instincts were on display Thursday night when Izzo reeled in a bullet from quarterback Tom Brady early in the second quarter. The consensus among reporters is that he has a chance to emerge as the starter to open the season. Izzo, who is 6’5, 255 pounds and is considered a strong blocker, missed all of last year due to injury.
Andrew Beck – According to The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, Beck has the highest guaranteed salary of all the Patriots’ undrafted free agents with $115,000. If he makes the 53-man roster, he earns $495,000. The 23-year-old University of Texas product started his college career as a linebacker and is also viewed as a reliable blocker.
It’s unlikely most of these players will make the roster, but chances are at least two will end up on the final 53.
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