3 things to know about new Patriots tight end Eric Saubert

Saubert's ability on special teams could help him make the roster.

Eric Saubert
Eric Saubert during the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game against the Denver Broncos on Aug. 1, 2019. –AP Photo/David Richard

The Patriots had a new face at training camp on Tuesday, adding tight end Eric Saubert to the team’s post-Rob Gronkowski depth chart. New England traded a conditional seventh round draft pick to the Falcons in exchange for the 25-year-old.

In his third season out of Drake University, Saubert was deemed superfluous to the requirements of Atlanta’s 53-man roster.

“We certainly wish him well,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn offered Monday. “He’s certainly regarded around here as a great teammate from me and from others. But at the end of it, we always know that it comes down to the battles at different roster spots, different places, and that’s what this time of year is about.”

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New England’s tight ends are immersed in a battle of their own as the team moves on following Gronkowski’s offseason retirement. Six tight ends have been vying for a chance to play the position for the Patriots this season, with Saubert adding to an already crowded field. One recent update to that competition involves Matt LaCosse, who suffered a “lower leg injury” in the first preseason game and was out of practice on Monday.

Here’s what Saubert brings to his new team:

He was the first Drake University player drafted since 1983.

As a high schooler, Saubert was labeled as one of the best players in the Mid Suburban League by The Chicago Tribune. Still, this wasn’t enough to put him on the radar of any Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools.

Eventually, the coaching staff at Drake University was impressed enough to him in. After redshirting for a season, he hit the ground running in 2013. In 11 games, he made 47 catches for 549 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Saubert trended upward in his college career, closing out his final season at Drake with 56 receptions for 776 yards and 10 touchdowns. Entering the NFL draft in the same year as a stacked class of other talents (O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, and George Kittle, among others), Saubert was not a particularly hyped draft pick. He was taken by the Falcons with the 174th overall pick in the fifth round.

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Yet, as a player out of Drake, he was notable for simply being drafted. Saubert became the first from his school selected in the draft since 1983.

He’s an above-average NFL athlete for his position.

Listed at 6-foot-5, and weighing 253 pounds, Saubert possesses essentially average size for a tight end in comparison to other players already on the Patriots’ roster.

What stands out about Saubert is his speed. Despite his size, he ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2017.

Since entering the NFL, he’s played sparingly, but flashed his potential on a few occasions — like during the preseason a year ago:

The other attribute Saubert has is strength. As a rookie, he was one of the top performers in the combine among tight ends in the bench press. And while he remains known as more of a pass-catcher than blocker, he has the potential to develop.

He was heavily utilized on Falcons’ special teams

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Though Saubert only managed 192 plays for the Falcons offense in 2018 (16.79 percent), he became a fixture on the special teams unit.

In total last season, Saubert managed 292 plays for Atlanta’s special teams (66.36 percent). This placed him second on the team in terms of usage. Given Bill Belichick’s affinity for versatility, Saubert’s chances of making the 53-man roster improve with every positive special teams play he can make.