The Patriots lost their best tight end option almost as quickly as they got him. Ben Watson announced this week that he would be suspended for the first four games of the 2019 season for a failed PED test. In an announcement on Facebook, Watson explained that he began taking certain testosterone supplements to help his recovery after he retired earlier this year. He did not believe it would matter because he did not think he would be playing again. Unfortunately, his decision to return now makes his failed test binding. New England will have to play the first quarter of the season without Watson's health.
Now, first things first: this isn't a season-ending development for the Patriots. Watson was a nice addition, but he was certainly no replacement for Rob Gronkowski.
(Speaking of Gronk, stop getting all excited. Sure, some people including Rodney Harrison believe he will come back. It's possible, but definitely not happening in time to make up for Watson's absence.)
The biggest issue with Watson's suspension is that it once again automatically makes the tight end position one of the Patriots biggest holes heading into the season. Remember, the Patriots traded Jacob Hollister to the Seahawks earlier in the offseason, making Ryan Izzo the longest-tenured tight end on the roster. When taking all of that into account, the talent pool thins out extremely quickly after the Watson.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been an average receiving target throughout his career. While he has shown flashes, he has never been able to be consistent. To his credit, he has never gotten to experience anything better than average quarterback play, so that could have had an impact on his production. It would still be a stretch though to think he is going to make an overwhelming impact on the field.
Stephen Anderson has been targeted just 68 total times in his two-year career and spent all of 2018 on the Patriots practice squad. Unless New England is for some reason extremely impressed with his development, Anderson is likely a practice squad player again.
Izzo was a seventh-round pick for the Patriots in the 2018 NFL Draft. He spent all of 2018 on the practice squad. While Izzo has potential as a blocker, he has limited experience as a pass catcher and reportedly did not impress in that area during practice last season. His likelihood of making the team will come as a blocker.
Matt LaCosse is the most interesting of all the Patriots tight end options. In four years, LaCosse has played in more than five games just once. In 2018, he played in 15 games for the Broncos, catching 24 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown. Now those numbers aren't stellar, but considering LaCosse had been targeted just four times previously in his career and he was catching from Case Keenum, those numbers are solid. The question will be whether he can build on that season and be a reliable and consistent weapon.
Either way, the Patriots options at tight end look dire. If the team doesn't make another move, they will need to rely much more heavily on their wide receivers and running backs in 2019.