The New England Patriots certainly kept busy during the 2023 NFL Draft. In all, Bill Belichick and the front office made 12 selections over the three-day spectacle, including six inside the top 120. Initially, the club had the No. 14 overall pick in the first round but made the savvy decision to trade down to No. 17, pick up an asset and still come away with Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez.
Coming off an 8-9 season, this draft was a particularly critical one for New England simply given the urgency to improve the roster in what is a growingly competitive AFC East. Gonzalez and edge rusher Keion White -- the Patriots' second-round pick -- should be able to come in and continue to bolster what is already a top-ranked defense.
But how did the rest of the draft go? What were the Patriots able to accomplish and what was left on the table? Let's dive into a macro-view of New England's draft and identify one thing that didn't fall their way and another that the team nailed heading into the spring and summer workouts.
Patriots 2023 NFL Draft class
|Christian Gonzalez, CB (Oregon)
|Keion White, EDGE (Georgia Tech)
|Marte Mapu, S (Sacramento State)
|Jake Andrews, C (Troy)
|Chad Ryland, K (Maryland)
|Sidy Sow, G (Eastern Michigan)
|Atonio Mafi, IOL (UCLA)
|Kayshon Boutte, WR (LSU)
|Bryce Baringer, P (Michigan State)
|Demario Douglas, WR (Liberty)
|Ameer Speed, CB (Michigan State)
|Isaiah Bolden, CB (Jackson State)
What the Patriots didn't do
- No help at offensive tackle
It was clear by looking at the roster that New England needed help at offensive tackle heading into the draft. Trent Brown and Riley Reiff -- the two projected starters at left and right tackle -- not only present a lower ceiling for New England's offensive line in 2023, but both of them are only signed through next season, leaving the team with no long-term security at the position. The Patriots opted to not select Georgia tackle Broderick Jones at No. 14 and instead allowed Pittsburgh to take him by trading back to No. 17. At that point, the window to take a tackle in the first round was shut, so they pivoted to the secondary (which we'll talk about below).
What was even more head-scratching was New England deciding against taking a tackle altogether and instead making picks that addressed the interior of the offensive line. Given the team's tremendous supply of high Day 3 picks in the fourth round, it would have been worthwhile to explore using those as collateral to move up higher into Day 2 to address that glaring need with players like Matthew Bergeron, Tyler Steen, and Cody Mauch available on Friday.
Among eligible quarterbacks (minimum 280 dropbacks), Jones had the 10th-shortest time to throw. He also graded 31st out of 32 quarterbacks when facing pressure, according to Pro Football Focus. Considering that lackluster showing against pressure, you'd think solidifying the offensive line in front of him by taking a top tackle would've been a priority.
Bonus: Not selecting a tight end. Similar to offensive tackle, the tight end position was a long-term need for the Patriots (they have no tight end signed beyond next season) and didn't come away with a single player in what was billed as an extremely deep class. It appears like New England may have simply missed the opportunity with teams plucking tight ends ahead of them.
"Thought process was those guys went really fast and they just kept coming off. You know, so that was just the way the Draft unfolded. There were some guys up top. There were some good depth in the middle of the Draft and those players came off really, really fast," said director of player personnel Matt Groh. "We had a couple guys that we really liked. They just went and that's just kind of the way it's going to go at any position in the draft."
What the Patriots definitely got right
- Taking Christian Gonzalez at No. 17
Gonzalez falling on New England's lap at No. 17 after trading down with the Steelers may have been the biggest steal of the entire draft. He was CBS Sports' top-ranked corner and the No. 7 overall player in this class, so the Patriots are getting a highly touted prospect that was mocked by some to go inside the top 10. While offensive tackle was an obvious need, so was corner. Heading into the draft, the Patriots didn't have much depth at the position behind Jonathan Jones and Jack Jones. Now, they not only deepen the unit but bring on someone who could be the latest No. 1 shutdown corner that Patriots defenses have enjoyed throughout Belichick's tenure.
Gonzalez also brings a different silhouette that differentiates himself from New England's other corners. He stands at 6-foot-1, weighs 197 pounds, and has 32-inch arms. That's much bigger than both Jack Jones (5-11, 30 3/4" arms) and Jonathan Jones (5-9, 30 1/4" arms).