The New England Patriots participated in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft an all-important one for this struggling team.
The team needs to crush this draft to have even a remote chance of avoiding the basement of the ever-improving AFC East Division.
The team did make a pick in the first round. It’s time to evaluate the process and the pick to now and see exactly how they did.
The New England Patriots selected defensive back Christian Gonzalez with pick No. 17.
New England Patriots did the right thing
The New England Patriots did what they do in the first round of the NFL draft. A favorite in this space, defensive end Lukas Van Ness went off the board right in front of the Patriots at pick No. 13.
The team then made a key decision to trade down and secure another pick, a fourth-rounder this year. Trading down and getting another pick and still drafting Christian Gonzalez, the cornerback from Oregon was smart operating.
Cornerback is one of the absolute necessities the team needed to bolster in this draft and they did so in style. They made a consensus pick for certain.
Gonzalez was rated highly by NFL experts. So this was in no way a reach pick. In fact, it can be argued that they selected a better player than his draft position would indicate.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) had Gonzalez rated as their second-best cornerback after Devon Witherspoon of Illinois.
They noted this about the young cornerback:
"Gonzalez has everything you could want from a top cornerback — size, speed, length, hips and ball skills. He had a breakout 2022 season after transferring to Oregon, notching four picks and six pass breakups."
This was a consensus pick and if observers are blabbing that they needed that this season (as in every season) they started the process off with a home run.
New England Patriots opportunity cost in drafting Gonzalez
The ultimate outcome of a draft takes several years to determine sometimes unless you really strike it rich. That prospect is here for the New England Patriots with Gonzalez.
What they didn’t do in the first round, was shore up the gaping hole at offensive tackle. And in passing at pick No. 14 they decided not to draft, Broderick Jones of Georgia.
Selecting Jones would have provided the entire draft with an A grade. He’d have filled the team’s top need, offensive left tackle. He’s top-rated talent and a winner.
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Another opportunity cost after trading down three spots with Pittsburgh was not trading down again and accumulating even more picks. Top starting caliber talents would still have been on the board had they traded down once or even twice more. This team needs a huge revamp.
If they didn’t get Van Ness and didn’t want to draft Broderick Jones, they should have traded down again. Now they still need a top offensive tackle and must hope there is one available when they next pick, currently pick No. 46 in the second round. Or, they can trade up to get one.
To grade Day One of the draft is easy. The New England Patriots left some things on the table. Good players like the best tight end in the draft, Mike Mayer, and others.
Yet, they did draft a consensus top-two cornerback, Christian Gonzalez, in a real position of need, and got him at 17, a pick that some observers think is a steal.
When the team gets it right, they need to be saluted for it. They did in selecting Christian Gonzalez at pick No. 17 and they get a grade here of straight A.