13. Christian Gonzalez
Christian Gonzalez is going to be an integral part of the Patriots’ defense this year. After all, they didn’t use the 17th overall pick in April on the promising CB just for him to rot on the sidelines.
Is placing someone who’s yet to play an NFL game at No. 13 too high? Maybe, but maybe not. After all, Gonzalez has the potential to be an electric defender for years to come.
The Carrollton, TX native was terrific in his final collegiate year, recording 50 tackles, four interceptions (for 118 yards), and seven defended passes across 12 games at Oregon. He was constantly giving signal-callers headaches, proven by his 74.7 QB rating when targeted.
Gonzalez’s performance solidified him as one of the best CBs in college football, earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors for his effort.
While some rookies have issues fitting in, that won’t be a problem here. Gonzalez is as versatile as they come, having played at least 73 snaps in the box, corner, and slot last fall, according to Pro Football Focus. I don’t doubt that Bill Belichick will maximize the rookie’s strengths.
Perhaps I’ll regret this ranking at the end of the year. For now, I have a lot of faith in the former Duck.
12. Mac Jones
I had a hard time deciding where to rank Mac Jones on this list.
A quarterback is supposed to, in theory, be his team’s best player, but that wasn’t the case for Jones last year. His 2022 season was the definition of a sophomore slump, leading the Pats to a 6-8 record in 14 starts while throwing for 2,997 yards and 14 TDs with 11 INTs just one year after being named to the Pro Bowl.
While last year’s performance was… unfortunate, to say the least, we know that Jones is capable of better things. Fans shouldn’t forget that he toppled 3,800 yards with 22 TDs as a rookie and with his having just turned 25, I fully believe that he can return to that level.
The Patriots have set Jones up for success this year. While he doesn’t have a weapon as lethal as Randy Moss or Rob Gronkowski like Tom Brady had, he has the following weapons at his disposal:
- JuJu Smith-Schuster
- DeVante Parker
- Kendrick Bourne
- Hunter Henry
- Mike Gesicki
- Rhamondre Stevenson
- Ezekiel Elliott
That’s without even mentioning promising rookies like Demario Douglas and Kayshon Boutte. Is it the most elite group? No, but there’s enough talent to the point where there’s zero reason for Jones not to have a bounce-back campaign.
Although this specific ranking is potential-based, I have a good feeling that Jones’ 2023 campaign will justify my decision.