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NFL Draft 2023: Christian Gonzalez wants to be the Patriots’ next shutdown cornerback

New England selected the Oregon product in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots have a long history of having No. 1 shutdown cornerbacks. They hope they drafted another one Thursday night in Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez.

“Definitely I know about it,” Gonzalez said about the Patriots’ pedigree at the position. “I’m just excited to get in there and play, having great cornerbacks coming out of that system. I watched Stephon Gilmore, great player. I want to follow in the footsteps of it.”

Leading up to the draft, Gonzalez was widely regarded as a top-two cornerback and a top-10 overall talent. After trading down three spots to No. 17 overall, New England was still able to select the former Duck.

Gonzalez is known for being an explosive athlete at 6-foot-1 with a 9.95 Relative Athletic Score, and has all the tools to shut receivers down in man coverage.

“Somebody’s that’s versatile, fast, long, tall, that can move around,” Gonzalez said Thursday night about his game. “Somebody that loves to learn and just wants to learn all the nuances of the defense and how they all build together.”

One of the few flaws people pointed to in his game were his ball skills. However, after transferring to Oregon in 2022, he logged career highs with four picks and six pass breakups.

“Film study. Knew what I had to get better at and just attacking it everyday at practice,” he told reporters via Zoom. “Knowing myself what I had to get better at.”

Gonzalez, who shared he met with the Patriots in Foxboro on a pre-draft visit, will now get to continue to advance his game under Bill Belichick.

“I’m very excited to play under him,” he said. “You can’t really get a better coach than that so I’m just excited to learn and go in there and just compete.”

In a division full of talented quarterbacks and wide receivers, the 20-year-old will be a key part of the Patriots’ defensive plans moving forward. The cornerback is ready to embrace the challenge and make an immediate impact, similarly to what Sauce Gardner did with Jets last season.

“It means a lot to watch somebody come in and make an instant impact, and I want to hopefully do the same thing. I just want to come in and compete and learn,” Gonzalez said. “I’m excited for that competition.”