clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NFL Draft grades 2023: Christian Gonzalez headlines a good draft for the Patriots

The Patriots added more talent and speed to a lot of important positions this weekend.

NFL: APR 27 2023 Draft Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots made 12 picks on NFL Draft weekend, the most they have made in over a decade.

They brought one of the best players in the class in at No. 17 overall. They became the first team since the Raiders in 2000 to draft both a kicker and punter in the same draft. They also drafted a pair of wide receivers in the same round for the first time in team history. They added freak athletes all over the field, and took some shots on high-upside players.

They did well. Let’s get into the grades.

Round 1

TRADE: Patriots trade 1-14 to Pittsburgh Steelers for 1-17 and 4-120:The Patriots got a little less value than the draft chart says that they should’ve, but they only moved back 3 picks, and the Steelers drafted the player that the Jets wanted at 15, so I like it. They also knew who the Steelers and Commanders were taking, so there was only going to be one player off the board they wanted. All in all, great trade. | Grade: A

1-17: CB Christian Gonzalez (Oregon). A consensus top-10 talent at a position of need for the Patriots, and one of the most important positions on the field? Yes, please. Gonzalez didn’t have the production of some other players at the cornerback position, but his traits are fantastic and his ceiling almost unlimited. He turns 21 in June, so you have a lot of time to mold him into the player that you hope he can be. Players with his traits do not grow on trees, so getting one in this spot is a huge win for the Patriots. | Players I might have considered instead: WR Zay Flowers | Grade: A+

Round 2

2-46: DE Keion White (Georgia Tech). White was invited to the draft, because most people believed that he would be selected in the first round. He wasn’t, despite freakish athleticism — especially for his size (6’5”, 285 lbs) — and having shown the ability to set the edge, and rush effectively from the inside and the outside. Having a player that can get after the quarterback from multiple positions is great for the Patriots, and the White pick could end up being a home run for them.

Again, they targeted an incredibly important position that, while it isn’t a need right now, could be very soon: with Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings both heading into contract years, having White certainly helps. | Players I might have considered instead: WR Rashee Rice, WR Marvin Mims, WR Tank Dell | Grade: A-

Round 3

3-76: LB/S Marte Mapu (Sacramento State). Mapu fits the mold of what the Patriots have done over the last few years at the safety position. He’s fast, he’s mean, and he’s versatile. The biggest difference between him and someone like Kyle Dugger is his run fits. He really impressed in the NFLPA Bowl, and earned himself an invite to the Senior Bowl. He then blew scouts away, and everyone was under the impression that he might end up being the highest-drafted player not invited to the Combine.

The versatility that he provides is great; he projects to be a linebacker, but has the athleticism to play safety as well. There is a some projection required for him, as he played at a small school, and is a tweener type, but the hope is his athletic traits and football IQ win out. A torn pec prevented him from testing at his Pro Day, which I think would have swayed opinions of the fans a bit, if they could have seen the numbers on his athleticism. The tape, however, doesn’t lie, and teams were obviously interested as well (he had 15 Top-30 visits leading up the draft). Fans wanted more weapons for the offense, but when you have a chance to grab a player that can make a unique impact on your defense, I can’t argue too much with it. | Players I might have considered instead: TE Tucker Kraft, WR Josh Downs, WR Michael Wilson, OT Wanya Morris | Grade: B

Round 4

4-107: C Jake Andrews (Troy). The Patriots addressed a need on the offensive line with their first pick on Day 3. They are going to need a solid backup at center, and David Andrews is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. The newly-drafted Andrews doesn’t have a ton of athletic upside, but he’s a solid center with a lot of experience that played well at the Senior Bowl. It’s not the sexy pick that people wanted, but it could eventually be a decent one. I think there were other directions they could have gone in, though, especially since Andrews wasn’t super highly-rated. Let’s see what happens. | Players I might have considered instead: OT Dawand Jones, WR Tyler Scott, S Jammie Robinson | Grade: D+

TRADE: Patriots trade 4-120 and 6-184 to the New York Jets for 4-112. The Patriots traded picks 120 and 184 to the Jets to move up to 112 and take their kicker:

4-112: K Chad Ryland (Maryland). Ryland was the consensus No. 2 kicker in this year’s draft, and immediately said to the Patriots media that he loved kicking in the cold and wind. That sounds exactly like a Patriot to me. Some people questioned the position, but I think Nick Folk is nearing, or possibly at, the end of his career. They needed a kicker.

Ryland also has plenty of experience as a kickoff specialist as well, which the Patriots are in desperate need of after parting ways with Jake Bailey. This is going to come down to whether or not he can adapt to the requirements at the next level, but kicker is an important position, so the Patriots needed to make this move. After missing out on Jake Moody, they couldn’t miss out on Ryland as well. | Players I might have considered instead: RB Roschon Johnson, CB Darius Rush, TE Payne Durham | Grade: C

4-117: G Sidy Sow (Eastern Michigan). The Patriots continued to add to the depth on the interior of their offensive line. Sow is an incredibly strong prospect, but also someone who showed an ability to get to the second level. He’s a good fit for what they Patriots want to do, and should provide them good depth immediately.

Sow projects to be a solid guard, and should give the Patriots good depth. They had problems with depth last year, and that was definitely an area of concern for them, as they keep adding to the area. There are questions about taking another interior O-lineman, and one could argue that the Patriots should have gone for a different position. Sow fits what they want to do, though, and actually had some experience at tackle as well. Not a bad pick. | Players I might have considered instead: WR Charlie Jones, RB Israel Abanikanda, TE Will Mallory | Grade: B

TRADE: Patriots trade 4-135 to the Las Vegas Raiders for 5-144 and 6-214. The value of the trade here is fine. I assumed that the Patriots would package one of these picks, but, it turns out they wanted to acquire more picks for the end of the draft. This essentially took care of their UDFA work. Ultimately, the trade didn’t do much, but they were able to get another player out of the deal, and, assuming they wanted Atonio Mafi at 135, still get their guy. | Grade: B

Round 5

5-144: G Atonio Mafi (UCLA). The Patriots, it turned out, were serious about needing depth on the interior of their offensive line. Mafi is a tough, large man, and moves surprisingly well for his size. He started his college career as a defensive tackle, but made the switch to guard in 2020. With limited time at the position, he made some real strides to get better, but he also has a ways to go to be a starting caliber lineman. There’s a lot of potential there, and he could certainly be a solid backup, but he might need a year on the practice squad to get there. | Players I might have considered instead: C Olusegun Oluwatimi, OT Asim Richards, RB Evan Hull | Grade: C

Round 6

6-187: WR Kayshon Boutte (LSU). Boutte, who was projected to the Patriots as a first-round pick in an early mock draft last year, had a disastrous final season at LSU. An injury slowed him down, but it’s the off-field issues that have really killed his stock. He may also have been fighting through an injury, which made his testing numbers look terrible as well. If Boutte can get healthy, and get his head screwed on straight, the Patriots have a potential game-changing receiver on their hands. If he doesn’t, then they wasted pick 187 of the draft. It’s a very low-risk, and very high-reward play, and I absolutely love it. | Players I might have considered instead: WR A.T. Perry, LB Jose Ramirez, DT Dante Stills | Grade: A

6-192: P Bryce Baringer (Michigan State). This is as automatic of a pick that you can possibly have considering it was a punter. Baringer was the consensus No. 1 at the position, and the Patriots have a serious need. He also held for Patriots draft pick Chad Ryland at the Senior Bowl.

Remember that when the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2018, Ryan Allen was one of the most important players in that game. Having a solid punter who can flip field position is huge, especially for a team building a dominant defense. You could certainly argue that the Patriots could have targeted other, more sexy, positions, but they needed a punter, and they added the best one in the draft. | Players I might have considered instead: RB Deuce Vaughn, OT Jake Witt, CB Cory Trice | Grade: B+

6-210: WR Demario Douglas (Liberty). The Patriots have been looking for a true slot receiver since Julian Edelman retired in 2021. Of course, Jakobi Meyers has been playing in that spot, but he didn’t have nearly the wiggle that Edelman had before leaving to the Raiders in free agency. Douglas has the short-area quickness and the escapability to be a solid slot in the Patriots offense.

He compared favorably to Josh Downs, who many (including myself) wanted earlier in the draft. He also offers a bit of the long speed that first-round pick Zay Flowers has, with the ability to push the defense vertically from the slot position. Getting Douglas this late in the draft is a really great value for the Patriots, and he could end up being a contributor for them on both offense and special teams. | Players I might have considered instead: DT Moro Ojomo, RB Keaton Mitchell, TE Zach Kuntz | Grade: A

6-214: CB Ameer Speed (Michigan State). A special teams pick. The Patriots really struggled in the kicking game last year, and Speed played over 500 snaps in the game’s third phase while he was at Georgia. He didn’t get a chance to play much while there, but he put forth some decent tape after transferring to Michigan State. He is going to start on special teams, but there is a chance that the Patriots could use his size at cornerback as well. | Players like I might have considered instead: RB Zach Evans, S Jason Taylor II, WR Ronnie Bell | Grade: B

Round 7

7-245: CB Isaiah Bolden (Jackson State). Bolden is a standout kick returner, and brings a ton of athleticism with him to New England. He doesn’t have a ton of experience on defense, but the Patriots take another super athlete in the secondary. He stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs in around 210 pounds, marking his athleticism even more impressive. As noted above, the Patriots needed help on special teams and they got some serious boost with Bolden and Ameer Speed. There is a question whether or not he will ever reach his potential, but it’s a great bet to make so late in the draft. | Players I might have considered instead: WR Bryce Forc-Wheaton, WR Grant DuBose, DE Andre Carter | Grade: B

Final grade

Overall, the Patriots are walking away from this year’s draft better than they were when they started it (duh!), and significantly more athletic. They added players at a bunch of different positions of need, headlined by getting a top-10 player after trading back to 17.

They took some big question marks, as they always do, but they continued their quest to be the fastest, and most athletic, team in the NFL, which should make them fun and competitive this season. They spent Day 2 drafting two freak athletes on defense that can help out right away, and they spent Day 3 filling important special teams holes, while also taking big swings at offensive playmakers. There were a few questionable picks early in Day 3, but they may end up paying off as depth, or even starters, down the road.

My biggest disappointment was that they didn’t come away with a tight end, since they have two on expiring contracts. Maybe they are going to extend one or both of them this season. They also didn’t draft a replacement for Devin McCourty; deep safety is one of the most important positions on the Patriots defense, and, while they certainly have a lot of depth at safety, I don’t know if any of the guys they have can play that role with consistency.

Of course, time will tell how good this draft truly was, but I think the Patriots pretty much crushed it.