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NFL Draft 2023: Versatile safety prospect Marte Mapu takes Top-30 visit with Patriots

Mapu is the 19th reported player to take a pre-draft visit with the team.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 01 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots sure like their versatile safety/linebacker hybrids, and the latest draft prospect to visit the club also falls into that category. Sacramento State defender Marte Mapu will take a Top-30 visit with the Patriots, as first reported by KPRC 2 Houston’s Aaron Wilson.

Including his redshirt freshman campaign in 2017 and the cancelled 2020 season, Mapu spent six years at Sacramento. He began primarily as a role player but took on a starting role on this side of the Covid-19 watershed.

Over the past two seasons, he started 25 games and registered a combined 141 tackles, six interceptions, 20 pass breakups as well as one fumble and sack each. His contributions extended beyond the defensive side of the ball; a core special teamer for the Hornets, he also blocked a field goal attempt in 2022.

His contributions earned him All-Big Sky selections in 2021 (second team) and 2022 (first team), and he was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year as a six-year senior.

Based on his success in college, Mapu could come off the board as early as the third or fourth round. A big part of his appeal is his size — 6-foot-3, 221 pounds — in combination with solid athleticism and intriguing positional versatility: he is best suited to play closer to the box in a “star” role but also has shown he can move around the formation depending on what the matchup calls for.

The Patriots, as noted above, have been interested in this type of player through the years. While Patrick Chung was still more of a traditional strong safety, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips and Jabrill Peppers are all multi-purpose players who can fill several roles on defense.

Using a mid-round selection to add Mapu to that group might look a bit redundant. As colleague Pat Lane pointed out in his latest mock draft, however, he could very well be a potential target for New England (in this projection in Round 4):

Why would they want him then? Because, without super athletic players at linebacker perhaps they will just use safeties instead. He suffered a torn pec while training for the Scouting Combine, so he wasn’t able to do any drills at his Pro Day, but his Senior Bowl performance was impressive enough to make him a fourth-round pick. The Patriots love this type of player on their defense, and getting another one will be good insurance in case one of them gets hurt or if they don’t end up signing Kyle Dugger to an extension.

Where he will end up remains to be seen, but the Patriots are at the very least taking a close look at him.

Part of it might be the torn pectoral he suffered in February; the team might want to get a closer look at the injury. That said, he also worked closely with Patriots defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington at the Senior Bowl: Covington served as the American team’s defensive coordinator at the all-star event.

Mapu is the 19th known prospect to take a pre-draft visit with the Patriots. The team has 30 possible slots to fill.