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NFL draft results 2023: Why the Patriots selected Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez

The Ducks product got the call in the first round at No. 17 overall.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game - Oregon vs Georgia Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the 2023 NFL draft hit the middle of the first round, the New England Patriots hit the outside.

The war room did so to select Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez at No. 17 overall on Thursday night.

Acquired after moving down three spots in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gonzalez marked the third prospect off the board at the position, following Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon and Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes. He also marked New England’s highest pick in the secondary under head coach Bill Belichick, ahead of Rutgers’ Devin McCourty in 2010 and Miami’s Brandon Meriweather in 2007.

Here’s an initial look into why.

A smooth, 30-game starter dating back to his freshman season

A four-star recruit out of The Colony High School in Texas, Gonzalez transferred from Colorado to Oregon after starting all 18 games for the Buffaloes dating back to his freshman season. He would go on to get the nod in all 12 games for the Ducks last fall while making a case to be the top cornerback taken come April.

Checking in as the No. 7 prospect on Arif Hasan of Pro Football Network’s Industry Consensus Big Board, Gonzalez went from All-Pac 12 honorable mention status as a sophomore to first-team All-Pac 12 status as a junior. He finished 2022 with 50 tackles, 11 passes defended and the first four interceptions of his collegiate career. Those interceptions spanned 118 return yards. A blocked field goal versus California was added on special teams.

While working the boundary and spelling in the slot, Gonzalez applied pressure. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks throwing his way last fall posted a completion rate of 60.9 percent to go with 495 yards and three touchdowns. Regarded for his fluidity in both man and zone coverage, he also checked the physicality box on the ground. Only three missed tackles were logged during the stay in Eugene.

Rare athleticism to fit the all-around playing style

It helps to be able to jam at the line when there’s also the track athleticism to recover and mirror downfield.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Gonzalez ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds to tie for sixth place among invites across all positions. His 11-foot-1 broad jump landed in a tie for fourth place among corners and safeties. Additionally, the lone defensive backs to eclipse the 41 1/2-inch vertical he put forth along with Kansas State’s Julius Brents were Maryland’s Deonte Banks, Oklahoma State’s Jason Taylor II and Illinois’ Jartavius Martin.

Gonzalez produced a 9.95 relative athletic score, per Kent Lee Platte of, out of a possible 10.

A search for size on the outside of New England’s defense

The active cornerback depth chart remained intact for the Patriots as Jonathan Jones re-signed on a two-year pact in March. But the longtime nickel could return there after a 2022 spent starting on the outside for a group also featuring the likes of restructured veteran Jalen Mills, tendered restricted free agent Myles Bryant and rising sophomores Jack Jones and Marcus Jones.

The investment at No. 17 overall makes that a possibility in New England. And that possibility brought the draft rights to No. 120 overall along with it.

At a long 6-foot-1, 197 pounds with 32-inch arms, Gonzalez carries a different dimension to counter top-end AFC wide receivers. He will turn 21 years old in June.