Now that the dust has settled, and we’ve had a few days to discuss, or more accurately, argue about, the New England Patriots’ draft class, I thought it would be a good time to make arguments for, and against, each pick that they made this past weekend. Instead of advocating just for or against, I tried to come up with the best possible arguments both for and against each pick.
Feel free to steal these the next time you find yourself in a discussion (or argument) about the Patriots’ 2022 draft. Hopefully, you will use these for good, but I’m also giving you the power to use them for evil.
1-17: CB Christian Gonzalez (Oregon)
Argument for this pick: This is an easy one. The Patriots drafted a player who was a consensus top 10 prospect 17th overall. Gonzalez projects as a top flight cornerback at the next level, and has all the traits to become a No. 1 corner in this league. Not only did they make a great pick, but they also traded out of No. 14 so the Pittsburgh Steelers could come up and draft Broderick Jones, who was a player that the New York Jets coveted, and reportedly wanted to draft.
The Patriots are in the AFC East, where they will be facing dominant offenses filled with very good skill position players, and at least two elite quarterbacks. To have a chance to compete, you need to be able to slow those offenses down with dominant defensive players. Drafting Gonzalez gives you a guy that could end up being one of the top corners in the league, and he gives you real size in a conference where you will be facing big, dominant receivers. He also has the speed and athleticism to stick with the smaller guys too.
Having a potentially dominant cornerback opens up the Patriots defense as we’ve seen so many times since 2001.
Argument against this pick: There are a few arguments here, and they are all more about what the Patriots could have done as opposed to something against Gonzalez. He’s not a perfect prospect, and there have been some questions about his toughness, but, overall, most people should be happy with him as a player.
The biggest argument against the pick, however, is what New England did not do. The team could have drafted a top flight tackle at No. 14, instead of trading back. Maybe their tackles are set this year, but the Patriots certainly don’t have any long-term depth; getting a guy like Broderick Jones, who could be a top tackle, would have been huge for the future of this team. They also could have traded back to 17, and still ended up with the No. 1 wide receiver in the draft. Maybe you think that person was Zay Flowers, maybe you think it was Jaxon Smith-Njigba, or maybe you think it was Quentin Johnston. Regardless, the Patriots were able to take him at 17, but they chose instead to draft a cornerback.
In an offensive league, you need a dominant offense to be able to compete with the best teams. Drafting an elite tackle or wide receiver would have helped the Patriots do just that.
2-46: EDGE Keion White (Georgia Tech)
Argument for this pick: The Patriots may not have looked like they had a big need at the edge position, but, when you look a little closer, you see that both Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings are headed into a contract year, and it’s possible that one or both of them won’t be back in 2024. Not only that, but White is exactly the kind of freak athlete that excels at the edge position.
He is 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, and still ran a 4.79-second 40-yard dash, combined with a 34-inch vertical and 30 reps on the bench with 34-inch arms. That kind of size and athleticism doesn’t grow on trees. Many people had White graded as a first-round talent; in fact, he was invited to the first round of the draft by the NFL because they were so confident about it.
The Patriots are trying to get more competitive in the AFC, and to do that, you need to be able to stop the dominant offenses that you will be facing. The Philadelphia Eagles have proven over the last few years that having multiple dominant rushers on the defensive line is one of the best ways to slow down offenses. Combine White with the rest of the rushers the Patriots have, and with their first round pick, Christian Gonzalez, and they are building quite a formidable defense.
Argument against this pick: The Patriots had the assets to be able to move up and draft players at important offensive positions like wide receiver, offensive tackle, and tight end. Matthew Bergeron, Jonathan Mingo, and Luke Musgrave all looked like guys that could be great fits for the Patriots, and they were all drafted between picks No. 38 and 42. If the Patriots had moved up, they could have bolstered their offense quite a bit.
They also could have stayed right where they were and done the same thing. Cody Mauch was drafted two picks after the Patriots chose White, and by the end of the round, receivers Jayden Reed, Rashee Rice, and Marvin Mims were all taken, as were tight ends Luke Schoonmaker and Brenton Strange. Any of those players would have potentially been huge for an offense that is hurting for weapons.
Adding to the offensive side of the ball is a necessity. With such a talented AFC, you are going to have to score points to be competitive, and adding any of those players would have helped with that — something an edge, albeit a talented one, cannot provide.
3-76 LB/S Marte Mapu (Sacramento State)
Argument for this pick: The league is changing, and players at certain positions look differently than they used to be. There was a time when you would be laughed at for having a guy at Marte Mapu’s size play linebacker, but that time is over. Matt Milano was a first team All-Pro in 2022; when he came out of school, he was 6-foot-0 and 223 pounds. Mapu is 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds. A very similar size, and is considered by many to be a tweener at the position, but, since the Patriots announced him as a linebacker, I assume he is going to play that role.
They have been looking for someone like this for the last few years, and it simply hasn’t worked out. They signed Raekwon McMillan, traded for Mack Wilson, and drafted Cameron McGrone, and none of those guys have been able to give the Patriots much in that new speed linebacker role that the NFL has. They have been getting by with safeties like Jabrill Peppers, Adrian Phillips, and, at times, even Kyle Dugger playing that role, but they are hoping that Mapu can come in and fill it right away.
If so, it would allow those other guys to be able to flourish in different roles. You could even see Dugger playing a little deep safety; he certainly has the athleticism for it. Mapu, like Dugger, comes from a smaller school, so you have not seen him play in games against great competition, but he absolutely dominated the Senior Bowl, and had a ton of buzz around the league.
He took 15 Top-30 visits, which must have been the most out of any prospect in this year’s draft. With the buzz surrounding him, there was no chance he was falling out of the third round. Yes, he is dealing with an injury, but there is optimism that he will be ready to go for training camp, and that would be huge for the Patriots. Mapu could wind up being one of the more important players on their defense, and contribute even as a rookie.
Argument against this pick: The Patriots have a ton of needs. One of the places they don’t have needs is safety. Yes, they announced Mapu as a linebacker, but he profiles to be someone who is going to play the same, or at least a very similar position as Jabrill Peppers, Adrian Phillips, and Kyle Dugger. The needs that they have are so much greater at other spots, and they spent this pick on a player who might not be playing a significant role this season.
The Patriots had the assets to move up the board, and within seven picks of their own selection saw Tank Dell, Jaylin Hyatt, and Cedric Tillman get drafted. Any of those guys could have stepped in and helped the Patriots immediately. Even if they decided not to trade up, the players selected shortly after Mapu also would have been a great fits.
Tucker Kraft and Darnell Washington, for example, are both solid tight ends. Wide receiver Josh Downs was taken only a few picks after Mapu, as were running backs Tyjae Spears and Devon Archane, who both profile to be the receiving back that the Patriots have been looking for since James White left.
With all the needs that the Patriots had going into the draft, this felt like a luxury pick, and not a pick to make the team significantly better in 2023.
4-107: C Jake Andrews (Troy)
Argument for this pick: The Patriots have a real depth problem on the offensive line, particularly the interior. James Ferentz simply does not cut it, and he has been their main backup for the three positions on the interior. Andrews is listed as a center, and that is probably where he is best, but he has experience playing guard as well, and could end up being a solid backup for all three positions, if needed. Think Ted Karras.
The Patriots also have to think about the future. I love David Andrews as much as anyone, but there were questions about whether he was going to come back and play in 2022; you have to imagine that he doesn’t have too much time left in his career. Drafting a player now allows him to learn from the long-time captain, and prepares him for the role instead of simply asking someone to start at an incredibly important position as a rookie.
Argument against this pick: A center? In the fourth round? In this economy? Forget about the fact that Andrews was projected as a sixth- or seventh-round pick, and didn’t exactly blow people away with his testing numbers. Even put aside the fact that the Patriots might have been able to get him at least a round later, and just look at the position.
They drafted a guy who absolutely is not going to start this year (barring a catastrophe), and did it when there were a bunch of talented players at positions of need on the board. Again, they had the assets to trade up, and you saw people get aggressive at the start of Day 3 and jump ahead to draft some very talented players.
Nick Saldiveri and Blake Freeland, both developmental tackles, went just picks before Andrews, and Dawand Jones and Carter Warren went after Andrews. If they were planning on drafting a backup, the tackle position would have made a lot more sense than the center spot.
4-112: K Chad Ryland (Maryland)
Argument for this pick: The Patriots were desperate for a kicker. I love Nick Folk, and, at times, he has been the most reliable offensive player for the Patriots since 2020. His career is coming to end, however. Any time you miss multiple kicks short from inside of 50 yards, it might be time to call it a career.
Ryland is a kicker that has experience playing in the cold weather; he is the most accurate kicker in program history at Maryland, and he booms kickoffs. All of that you need. Trading up for a kicker seems unconventional, but it is still an important part of your offense, and oftentimes a key to winning close games.
The Patriots get the consensus second overall kicker, and shore up that position for years to come. If he is good, no one is going to remember where he was taken, or that the team traded up to get him.
Argument against this pick: A kicker? First, a center, now a kicker? And trade up for him no less? I’m banging the table about other positions of need, but this one is obvious. Sure, Ryland is good, and they needed a kicker, but you probably did not need to take him in the fourth round. Only one other kicker was drafted the entire draft, so it is not like people were clamoring for kickers.
I actually really liked that they were aggressive and traded up, but again: a kicker?!
4-117: G Sidy Sow (Eastern Michigan)
Argument for this pick: The Patriots, as I already mentioned, need depth on the interior of the offensive line. Sow is one of the most experienced linemen in the draft, and was a solid contributor at Eastern Michigan. His testing numbers were also impressive, he has some real movement ability for a player of his size. He even has some position flexibility: he started his college career playing tackle.
Given his athleticism, combined with the fact that he is 6-foot-5 and 323 pounds with almost 34-inch arms, that could certainly be a spot where the Patriots might try him out. Every year, there are players who move from tackle to guard when they get to the pro level; maybe Sow can be the opposite. He certainly has the traits for it. We’ll have to wait and see what the Patriots do, but Sow is a very intriguing prospect.
Argument against this pick: Another guard? Sitting in the fourth round, the Patriots have made three picks, and two of them have targeted the interior O-line (where they have clear starters), and the other has been a kicker. The attention that the team has paid to true positions of need has been clearly lacking, and, even in the fourth round, there are still tight ends, tackles, and receivers that could have been targeted for the Patriots.
Receiver Tyler Scott and Charlie Jones were both still on the board, both of whom could have been really good targets for the Patriots in this spot.
5-144: G Atonio Mafi (UCLA)
Argument for this pick: I sound like a broken record, but the Patriots really needed depth on the interior of the offensive line. By taking three guys, they are betting that at least one of them pans out and becomes either a starter or at least a competent backup.
Mafi is an incredibly large human, and sometimes, even too large, as he has had trouble keeping his weight down at times. He is still a good mover, however, and very powerful. He would be a perfect backup (and possible replacement) for starting right guard Michael Onwenu. The best way to protect a pocket passer is to keep his pocket clean, and to do that is to shore up the middle of it, which is exactly what the Patriots spent the beginning of Day 3 of the draft doing.
Argument against this pick: At this point, I feel like Bill Belichick is just messing with everybody. Since the start of Day 3, he drafted three interior offensive linemen and a kicker. Wide receivers, running backs, deep safeties, and tackles have all gone off the board, and the Patriots seem uninterested in any of them.
Personally, I would have loved to have seen Evan Hull be the pick here, which would have given the Patriots the pass-catching back that they have been looking for. Honestly, anything other than another interior lineman probably would have been OK. The problem is, either they are drafting these players specifically to be backups, or, they have already decided that they will need to replace Michael Onwenu. Both of those options are not ideal, but keeping one of your best players would certainly be preferable to drafting three guys in the middle of the draft to possibly help replace him.
6-187: WR Kayshon Boutte (LSU)
Argument for this pick: The Patriots finally addressed the receiver position, and they did it in a potentially very exciting way. Kayshon Boutte is a player who has a ridiculously high ceiling. He had over 300 yards receiving and three touchdowns in a game as a true freshman, in the SEC. Injuries, some questionable off-field decisions, and a bad Scouting Combine performance have torpedoed his draft stock after he was considered a possible first-round pick just a year ago.
There is still a lot to like about his game, and he also has not even turned 21 yet. The hope is that you can chalk up his shortcomings to his youth, that this last year has been a wakeup call for him, and that getting drafted in the sixth round has lit a fire under him.
If Boutte ever reaches the potential he once showed, he has a chance to be an elite receiver in the NFL. If he doesn’t, the Patriots will have wasted a sixth round pick. I’ll take that chance any day.
Argument against this pick: The Patriots finally address the receiver position, and they do it with a guy that two different coaching staffs have complained about. Boutte was such a distraction that apparently after he had decided he was going back to LSU for one more season, they told him to enter the draft instead because they did not want him.
He also has a lingering ankle injury, which has required two surgeries, and he has admitted to not paying enough attention to fulfill his five-star recruit potential. Pair that with his testing numbers, which are bad (a 29-inch vertical and under 10-foot broad jump), and there is a good chance that Boutte never sees the field for the Patriots outside of the preseason.
6-192: P Bryce Baringer (Michigan State)
Argument for this pick: The Patriots get the consensus No. 1 punter on the board, and they do it in the sixth round. Whatever it was that happened to Jake Bailey since he signed his big contract had left the Patriots without a punter, and now they get the guy who everyone agreed was the best one in college football.
Baringer also has a bunch of experience holding, and even held for his now-teammate Chad Ryland at the Senior Bowl. It may not be a sexy position, but it is extremely important, and certainly one of need for New England. So, I think this is a great pick.
Argument against this pick: The Patriots are really out there drafting more special teams help? They became the first team to select a kicker and a punter in the draft since the 2000 Raiders (at least the Patriots didn’t draft their kicker in the first round). Whatever the need was at punter, there are still holes on this team they had not addressed yet, like offensive tackle or tight end.
This pick could have been used to move up and take a player at those positions in an earlier round, something that might have been a better use of resources than spending yet another pick on a special teamer.
6-210: WR Demario Douglas (Liberty)
Argument for this pick: The Patriots need a true slot player — not a big guy playing in the slot, but a shifty one who can get open quickly and make people miss in the open field. Douglas could certainly be that guy; he’s small, but also ridiculously quick, and does a great job of making people miss in the open field.
Watching him with the ball in his hands is a lot of fun, and this pick could wind up being awesome for the Patriots. They got an up-close and personal look at him when they coached him at the East-West Shrine Bowl, and they obviously feel comfortable with him even though he played against a lower level of competition at Liberty. Douglas is nonetheless going to be a quick fan favorite, and someone that people will love watching play.
Argument against this pick: The Patriots again addressed the receiver position, and again went with a guy with a ton of red flags. This time, those red flags are on the field as opposed to off of it, but the idea is the same.
Douglas is 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, and has short arms and a small wingspan. His catch radius is almost non-existent, and, while he looks great with the ball in his hands, he played at Liberty, so it’s hard to know whether he will have that type of real wiggle in the NFL. His testing numbers are fine, but they don’t blow you away, and it remains to be seen if he will be able to overcome his size limitations.
6-214: CB Ameer Speed (Michigan State)
Argument for this pick: Speed has a very appropriate name, because he has a ton of just that. He started his college career at Georgia, and was a core special teamer for the Bulldogs, logging over 500 special teams snaps in his four years there. He also brings great size, at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds. He isn’t in New England to play defense, but the Patriots’ special teams was not good last year, and they need as much help as they can get. Speed will give them exactly that this year.
Argument against this pick: The Patriots have selected a cornerback who played almost no cornerback in his five-year college career. He lined up almost exclusively on special teams at Georgia, and did play a little corner at Michigan State in 2022, but didn’t look great doing it. That means that this pick was a pick made only for the kicking game. It worked out with Matthew Slater, obviously, but there is just no way to know if it will work out for Speed.
7-145: CB Isaiah Bolden (Jackson State)
Argument for this pick: Bolden is another big cornerback with great speed. He was one of the best kickoff returners in the country the last few years, and brings some real athleticism to the equation. He left Florida State to go play for Deion Standers at Jackson State, and this year was the first and only player drafted from an HBCU.
He brings experience as an elite return man, and has been playing special teams. He has some upside on defense, but if he becomes a core player in the game’s third phase, he doesn’t even need to be a contributor on defense for this seventh-round selection to be a good pick.
Argument against this pick: In the seventh round, there is not much to complain about this pick. They certainly could have gone after a different position, but there wasn’t much talent on the board. Taking a chance on a guy like this is not overly terrible, but it’s also not likely that he ever has any actual impact on the team. It is cool that the Patriots selected the only player selected from an HBCU, but this pick is nothing to get excited about.
So, that’s it. Hopefully you have all the ammo you need to win any argument about the Patriots draft this year.
Like I said, hopefully you see and use the positives first and foremost, but you can also choose to use the counterarguments as well if you so please. At the very least, you now have the power to make Patriots Twitter and message boards more positive or negative. I’ve given you this power, and with great power comes great responsibility.