Cornerback appears to be a position of need for the New England Patriots heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. So if ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper's latest prediction is accurate, fans should be pleased.
Kiper projects the Patriots selecting CB Christian Gonzalez out of Oregon with the 14th overall pick. They could go a number of different ways in the first round -- drafting a tackle, a wideout, or trading down are each strong possibilities -- but our Phil Perry believes ending up with Gonzalez would be a "home run."
He explained why in the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast.
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"This to me would be a home run selection," Perry said. "In a draft that is not necessarily chock full of blue-chip talent, Gonzalez is a blue-chip talent. ... All the athleticism you could ever want. Ran in the 4.3s at the combine, unbelievably smooth in his transitions. And we know just how much the Patriots value footwork at the cornerback spot especially. ...
"Height, weight, speed, would give the Patriots something they don't have. Quite frankly, it's something most teams in the NFL don't have when you're talking about this specific combination of length and movement skills."
New England Patriots
Perry points out that Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon could be the more prototypical Patriots fit due to his physicality, one area Gonzalez lacks in.
"That might be an area where Christian Gonzalez is lacking a little bit," Perry said. "I spoke to a defensive assistant recently who said, 'Witherspoon is a little undersized, but he's almost six feet tall and he's 180ish pounds. ... But he plays like he's 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and he's looking to lay you out when the football comes your way.'
"Gonzalez meanwhile, for all the athleticism, for all the traits he has, I won't call him soft, but just not as feisty as you might want out of somebody at that position. That's what evaluators will tell you."
Gonzalez, Witherspoon, or another young cornerback could have an important role with the team next season as part of a CB group that currently includes Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, and Myles Bryant. Jalen Mills will transition to safety following Devin McCourty's retirement.
The 2023 NFL Draft will begin on April 27.
Also in the new episode: Kiper on the tight end talent in the draft. Is Dalton Kincaid worth the first-round investment? And Connor Rogers on fits for the Patriots in the draft.