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New England Patriots Draft Grade

Image: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Reaction to the Patriots Draft

Belichick does what Belichick does best! Being completely unpredictable. Going into the 2023 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots had glaring needs at wide receiver, defensive line, offensive tackle, and secondary. I don’t think anyone could have predicted what the Patriots were going to do outside the first round, I certainly didn’t. Click here to view my mock draft for the Patriots.

To understand the Patriots’ choices, fans have to look at the bigger picture. AKA the rest of the AFC East. The Jets got better with the addition of Aaron Rodgers and the weapons he had requested. The Bills have Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, who have run away with the division for the last three years. And the Dolphins have Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill. Despite having a defense that year in and year out has been at the top of the league, it still needs to get better and younger. Fans wanted offensive help for Mac Jones, the Patriots feel that they were able to sign some weapons for him in the offensive and to be fair, they did.

The Patriots signed former Dolphin tight end Mike Gesicki and the TikTok man himself, JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster is coming off a Super Bowl championship with the Kansas City Chiefs. This last year, Smith-Schuster didn’t break the 1,000-yard receiving mark but was an extremely efficient pass catcher. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Smith-Schuster had a QBR rating of 104.9 when targeted. Despite his low numbers, I think the addition of Smith-Schuster, with his size and strength, will be a great combination with a healthy Tyquan Thorton. Gesicki is definitely a major upgrade from Jonnu Smith. Gesicki is a faster and more athletic TE, and he also had a higher QBR rating when targeted (102.3) compared to Smith’s rating (79.2).

Now let’s get into these draft picks!

Draft Pick Grades

Round 1, Pick 17: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon                                                                    Grade: A+

The Patriots traded back from 15th with the Pittsburgh Steelers. When I first saw this, I was livid. The top two wide receivers were still available, along with Gonzalez. In hindsight, I realize that Belichick did this because the Patriots were going to have their pick at 17 and would stop their division rival from getting their top pick. Despite not being a wide receiver or offensive lineman, Gonzalez was a steal at 17. Gonzalez, who was arguably the best all-around corner available in the draft, provides length, speed, and athleticism in an evolving league that is seeing monster wide receivers breakout. He is also only 20! At 20, he has room to grow in ferocity which was a big critique for an otherwise great prospect.

Round 2, Pick 46: Keion White, EDGE, Georgia Tech                                                              Grade: B+

White was a good value at 46. Though he is on the older side at 24, he provides aggressiveness and length, opposite of Matthew Judon. With guidance from Judon, White could take a major leap and eliminate some of the woes that caused him to drop into the second round. His unique combination of size, bend, and speed, once harnessed, could make him a top consistent edge rusher in the NFL. Definitely a project for the Patriots, but worth the risk as a mid-second-round pick.

Round 3, Pick 76: Marte Mapu, S, Sacramento State                                                               Grade: B+

Another solid secondary pickup for the Patriots. Mapu played multiple positions at Sacramento State. This included safety, slot corner, nickel corner, and linebacker. He fits a similar role to current Patriot Kyle Dugger. Dugger has been very versatile, filling multiple positions. Having essentially two of these players, especially one that exceeds in man coverage (Gonzalez), strengthens the Patriots’ defense. Mapu also helps bolster the Patriots’ run defense on the edge, clocking an 85.9 run defense grade, according to PFF. (See the exact pick analysis.)

Round 4, Pick 107: Jake Andrews, Center, Troy                                                                         Grade: C

I believe the Patriots reached on Andrews. He is a good depth player but not worth a fourth-round pick. The Patriots could have easily traded back into the end of the 5th to snag him. Andrews struggles in pass blocking and is not agile in the run game. He does have good technique in run defense and, perhaps, with a lot of help, can turn into an above-average lineman in the league. I think a better fit and pick here would have been Dawand Jones, the tackle out of Ohio State.

Round 4, Pick 112: Chad Ryland, Kicker, Maryland                                                                  Grade: D+

Why? I understand needing to fill a need, but trading up for a kicker, seriously?!?!?! Ryland was the consensus number-two kicker in the draft but, again, wasn’t worth a fourth-round pick. We will have to see if this pick pans out. If it doesn’t, I think it could go down as Belichick’s worst draft pick ever. At best, it will go down as a mediocre pick. The only reason I did not give this pick an F was because it still filled a need for the Patriots.

Round 4, Pick 117: Sidy Sow, Offensive Guard, Eastern Washington                                Grade: B-

This was a solid pickup for the Patriots. Sow helps give the offensive line some depth and much-needed help in the run game. He also has the ability to play tackle which is a big need for the Patriots. Sow also brings experience and some good tenacity up front. Though he struggles on point of impact in the run game, some good coaching will help correct those issues and guide Sow into a solid starter for the Patriots.

Round 5, Pick 144: Atonio Mafi, Guard, UCLA                                                                            Grade: B

Another all-around good pick for the Patriots. PFF gave Mafi an 88.3 run-blocking grade which is impressive given the fast pace nature of Chip Kelly’s offense over at UCLA. A big body that can move in the trenches is always a necessity, and with the ever-growing size of defensive tackles, you are going to need one of your own on offense. A solid pick in the fifth round.

Round 6, Pick 187: Kayshon Boutte, Wide Receiver, LSU                                                      Grade: A

A great pick for the Patriots. Boutte dropped because of not meeting expectations and some off-field issues. However, he provides great speed and size. This was a player that could make a difference at the next level. A much-needed weapon for Mac Jones and could help Bill O’Brien bring this offense back to its former glory.

Round 6, Pick 192: Bryce Baringer, Punter, Michigan State                                                 Grade: D

Again, what is there to say? Baringer was an okay punter out of college. He has the leg for the big times but allows too often for returns. On a team that really struggled in the special team’s department, this is going to have to be a wait-and-see pick. At best, this can be a mediocre pick. Belichick didn’t reach this time but still had better options that could have been taken here.

Round 6, Pick 210: Demario Douglas, Wide Receiver, Liberty                                             Grade: A-

As you have most likely seen, a graphic by PFF has been circulating showing that Douglas was PFF’s highest career-graded wide receiver, beating out Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Smith-Njigba was arguably the best wide receiver in this year’s draft. This is great value for the Patriots in the sixth round. Douglas has great hands, along with speed. Though he is undersized, he is another weapon that O’Brien can utilize for Jones and help improve this struggling offense.

Round 6, Pick 214: Ameer Speed, Cornerback, Michigan State                                            Grade: C+

This was a risky free pick for the Patriots. Speed doesn’t have much experience, but he does have the measurables and, no pun intended, actual speed. With wide receivers becoming faster, speed is always necessary. I could also see the Patriots trying to use Speed out on offense and potentially in special teams. Speed is a good pick with low downside and good upside.

Round 7, Pick 245: Isaiah Bolden, Cornerback, Jackson State                                              Grade: B

Low risk, high reward once again. Speed is a major need at the cornerback position. Finding it in a player like Bolden, who also has the size, is all-around a solid pickup. His ability to play man and help with run defense shows that he could have a spot on this roster. Belichick can find a spot for someone with Bolden’s talent and maximize his potential. In the seventh round, it’s the best possible player available. Bolden is that guy for the Patriots.

Overall: A-/B+

Despite the Patriots reaching on some players, they found good value in the later rounds. Did they get better? Yes. Do some of these picks make you scratch your head? Yes. This will continue to happen while Belichick is at the helm. As the Patriot faithful say, in Bill We Trust. Though the Patriots mainly focused on defense, the holes fans wanted to be filled were done so prior to the draft. The AFC East, as a whole, is a defensive nightmare. Addressing defense needed to be a priority, and it was evidenced by the Patriots’ draft selections. The Patriots got better! Only time will tell how much better they got. Belichick, as always, was strategic in his choices.

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