Virginia Tech TE Dalton Keene surprised many last night when he announced that he would be declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft, forgoing his final year of eligibility.
Keene, the junior tight end from Littleton, Colorado, becomes the second Hokie to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft with eligibility remaining joining RB Deshawn McClease.
Keene leaves Virginia Tech after having a career high 5 receiving touchdowns with 21 receptions for 240 receiving yards plus 33 rushing yards on 11 carries, earning All-ACC Honorable Mention honors. Overall, Keene finished his career with 59 receptions for 748 yards and 8 touchdowns, starting 38 games over his 3 seasons in Blacksburg.
There has been some speculation as to whether the departure of DL coach Charley Wiles had a factor given the large role he played in Keene's recruitment because Wiles was college roommates with Keene's father. However, a source confirmed what Keene said publicly last night that it was not a factor in his decision.
Not the case at all. Of course I was disappointed about Coach wiles. That had nothing to do with my decision. I’m just doing what I think is best for me as a player. I have nothing but love for Coach Fuente and the rest of the coaching staff— Dalton Keene (@DaltonKeene18) January 11, 2020
From what I've heard, it sounds like Keene was told by NFL scouts that another year at Virginia Tech wouldn't affect his draft stock much at all. That seems to be a big factor in his decision to jump to the NFL now rather than wait another year and risk dealing with injuries that could derail it even more.
With Keene leaving, expect James Mitchell to take on the primary tight end role after playing significantly this past season. Meanwhile, sophomore Nick Gallo should step into the backup/second tight end role after impressing Virginia Tech coaches and players during his first season on campus.