The New England Patriots did a masterful job navigating the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
They moved down from No. 14 to No. 17 in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers that allowed them to add another fourth-round pick (120th overall). And then at No. 17 the Patriots selected Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez, who many draft experts ranked as a top 10 player in this class.
Cornerback was a huge need for the Patriots, especially when you consider the elite talent at wide receiver that their AFC East division rivals are able to put on the field. Gonzalez tallied four interceptions and excelled in coverage for the Ducks last season.
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One draft expert who approved of the Patriots taking Gonzalez in the first round was ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. In his first-round recap published early Friday morning, Kiper placed the Patriots in his "Biggest winners from Round 1" section.
"I also liked what the Patriots did with their part of the trade with the Steelers," Kiper wrote. "Gonzalez is my ninth-ranked prospect, and I thought he was a lock for the top 10. He could be a steal for the Patriots, who have a hole in the defensive backfield and didn't look like a typical Bill Belichick secondary in 2022. Gonzalez can thrive in man or zone coverage."
New England Patriots
Kiper isn't the only draft analyst who liked the Patriots' work in the first round. The large majority of first-round draft grades have come in at A- or better for New England's selection of Gonzalez.
There's no question the Patriots are off to a good start, but there's still plenty more work to be done.
Friday and Saturday are expected to be very busy for head coach Bill Belichick and his staff. The Patriots own a second-round pick (No. 46 overall) and a third-round pick (No. 76 overall) on Friday, and they have nine picks Saturday, including four fourth-round selections.