New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft flubs draft evaluation

Dec 12, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 12, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The New England Patriots 2023 draft is history and like all drafts, the real story won’t be known for a season or three. Yet that doesn’t stop observers from taking a flier on who did what.

The latest to surface on the New England Patriots 2023 version is from team owner Robert Kraft. Kraft has been a breath of fresh air in recent draft evaluations. He’s panned the poor results by Bill Belichick and company.

He deserved plaudits for his candor and accuracy. This year, however, Kraft reverted to form after meeting the bright young players the team drafted.

He was cited by this way:

"“At the end of draft day, my eldest son Jonathan and I were chatting, and I said, ‘This was a great, great draft. I’m really optimistic about the team,’” Kraft said. “He said, ‘Dad, you say that every year.’ But I really believe it. We were able to get the top seven picks that we had identified before the draft. I think it gives us a good balance of what our needs are. I think our free agent pickups and getting Bill O’Brien in will make a big difference.”"

Wanting to be positive is understandable. Kraft’s obfuscation of the reality of offseason team building though isn’t. Jonathan was right.

New England Patriots draft missed both short and long-term

The Patriots started the 2023 draft in fine fettle as they did initially in 2022. They traded down. The team was lauded for those moves here in both 2022 and 2023.

They traded the 14th pick to Pittsburgh to get pick number 17 and a fourth-rounder.  That move was followed by selecting a top cornerback, another top priority, Christian Gonzalez from Oregon.

Those two moves received an A draft grade here. Not only did they get a consensus top-10 projected player in Gonzalez but also got an additional pick. It was a great first day.

In the second round, they also selected a consensus type in Keion White, a lineman/edge from Georgia Tech. Again, this was a solid consensus pick. It was OK though for a second time the team mistakenly stayed away from the offensive tackle.

In the third round, the Patriots reverted to form and reached way up for injured hybrid safety/linebacker, Marte Mapu from Sacramento State. He was projected much lower.

That started the draft slide to mediocrity. The New England Patriots neglected to take a tackle when both of their top two starters are out of contract after 2023. They also didn’t select a tight end, whose top two players are also out of contract after 2023.

This all adds up to a regrettably flawed draft and a likely trip to the cellar of the ever-more challenging AFC East Division.

Why Patriots owner Robert Kraft missed the boat

The Mapu pick started the usual Patriots game of reaches, selecting several players way earlier than many observers thought they merited.

The Mapu reach was truly silly and they then traded up for a punter in the fourth round. They totally punted on selecting an offensive tackle or tight end at all.

It was another “we always know better than everyone else” moment that Belichick is noted for. The problem is, Belichick could get away with irrational picks when he had TB12 under center. Now that he’s gone, not so much.

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It takes years to see how a draft actually works out. But Kraft’s starry eyes obscure two critically important facts.

First, the offensive left tackle position is the second most important position on the field. If starter Trent Brown is injured, they are toast. And next season, the cupboard may be totally bare at OT.

Second, the team has two tight ends who may also go after the season. If one gets injured, they are in a world of hurt. And next season, they also may have nothing there at all.

Next. New England Patriots either nailed or failed their offensive line fix. dark

Evaluating drafts right after is a silly business at best. But neglect to fill two key offensive positions after a year in which your offense stunk in large part because of those deficiencies, then expect the worst.

It would have been (could have been) a truly outstanding draft. It wasn’t, Mr. Kraft’s comments notwithstanding. And neither was free agency.

You are what you build in the offseason. Unfortunately, the New England Patriots have built a house of cards.