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MORSE: Patriots Get the Steal of the Draft in Gonzalez

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
April 28, 2023 at 4:55 pm ET

MORSE: Patriots Get the Steal of the Draft in Gonzalez(PHOTO: Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK)

🕑 Read Time: 3 minutes

I have been following the draft prospects since the 1st week of January.  I think I had one mock draft with Christian Gonzalez going to the Patriots.  In my final Mock Draft, I posted 4 scenarios for the Patriots’ first selection.  Little did I know that both #4 and #1 would end up happening:

  • A top CB falls in their lap. Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon, and Joey Porter are the top three.  Deonte Banks from Maryland has a superior RAS score (10) is just behind them.
  • A top OT falls in their lap. Remember that the Patriots have never drafted an O-lineman in the top 50 that hasn’t started 25 games in college.  Peter Skronski from Northwestern has started 33 but he goes #11 to the Titans.  One of the OTs that meets that requirement and is worthy of being picked #14 is Darnell Wright from Tennessee.
  • No WR is worth taking at #14. Scouts are down on this class of receivers.  Fan favorite Zay Flowers seems to be slipping into the late 1st early 2nd round area.  Matt Groh’s words this week are why I don’t think the Patriots will use a 1st round pick on a WR.
  • Trade Down – I know Bill Belichick loves to frustrate the fanbase with his trades out of the 1st

Bill Belichick’s brilliant trade with Pittsburgh gives them more draft capital (4th Rd #120) but also denied the New York Jets (#15) from getting the OT they desired to protect the backside of newly acquired Aaron Rodgers.

Gonzalez’s athletic ability is off the charts.

The Patriots’ draft brain trust under Matt Groh is in love with the RAS metric.

Dane Brugler from the Athletic had Gonzalez ranked #5 overall.  Daniel Jeremiah from the NFL network had him in top 10.  33rd Team had Gonzalez as the #8 player and from Patriots.com, Evan Lazar had Gonzalez as his #1 prospect for the Patriots.

This is the bio that Dane Brugler posted in his Draft Guide, The Beast.

“: Tall, long and can run man-to-man … accelerates well to match vertical routes and press receivers along the sideline (his 1.81 “flying 20” led all cornerbacks at the combine) … calm and fluid in his turns, with the footwork and thin ankles to spring in any direction … route instincts help him stay within arm’s length without hanging on receivers (only three pass interference penalties over the last two seasons) … uses his long wingspan and leaping skills to cover a lot of airspace … has the catching skills to finish interceptions when in position … averaged 29.5 yards per interception return in college (4/118/0) … throws his body around as a chop down tackler to remove ball carriers from their feet … put improved tackling on his 2022 film … was a jammer on punt returns and also played on kick return and field goal block coverages (blocked one field goal in 2022) … low-key personality and a lunch-pail worker (NFL scout: “He’s a coach pleaser. … Puts his head down and works.”) … logged 30 starts the past three seasons and missed only one game (bowl opt-out).”

Why did Gonzalez drop?  According to Greg Bedard of Boston Sports Journal thought the Opponents’ scouts nitpicked Gonzalez’s ability.  They were looking for reasons not to take him.  He is not an alpha dog, a rah-rah, aggressive type of guy.  He doesn’t play the game with violence but is rather laid-back and cerebral.  Did anyone notice his walk out of the Green Room?  He was in no hurry to get to the podium.  He sauntered to get his Patriots cap, took his time adjusting it in the mirror, then slowly made his way onstage.  Gonzalez was taking in the moment.  He is a true Junior and is just 20 years old.  There is a perceived immaturity.

Gonzalez played on all the Special Teams units and blocked an FG.  He excelled as the outside jammer on the punt return team.  He was described as being the type of player that will be the first one in and the last to leave and loves to watch game videos of his opponents.  I think the Patriots just found a lockdown Cornerback that played Man – to – Man defense a majority of his snaps.  The Patriots made a complicated risk in making the trade.  They probably had 3 DBs in a group, Gonzalez, Deonte Banks, and Joey Porter.  The Patriots draft staff had a very good prediction of who Pittsburgh and New York Jets would do, leaving Washington to make a selection that was a bit of a wildcat.  I was screaming for the Patriots to take Gonzalez at 14.  The Patriots needed a big CB to compete with the top receivers the Patriots will play this year.  Now the Patriots can move Jonathan Jones to Safety, replacing Devin McCourty.  Jones has the speed to play single-high safety, Jalen Mills does not.

The Patriots also had an inside source, in new Offensive Line coach Adrian Klemm who was the O-line coach for the Oregon Ducks and got to see Gonzalez up close and personal.

READ NEXT:
Titans Trade Up and Take Will Levis off the Board in Round 2

About Mark Morse

Merrimack Valley native and lifelong fan of the New England Patriots. My earliest memories of the Patriots were attending as a child with my dad, the off-season practice at Phillips Academy. I was at the Patriots game at Harvard Stadium in 1970 where Bob “Harpo” Gladieux was called out of the stands by the stadium announcer over the PA to play in the game. Analyzing the draft since ESPN first started to televise it in 1980 and former writer for the Lowell Sun Newspaper.


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