After trading back in the first round, Bill Belichick still landed one of the top cornerbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft at No. 17 overall.
The Patriots selected Christian Gonzalez, a 6-foot-1 ballhawk from Oregon. Last season, Gonzalez finished with four interceptions and 11 passes defensed, earning All Pac 12 honors. Gonzalez clocked a 4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and has excelled in man-to-man coverage.
The Athletic’s Draft whiz Dane Brugler had Gonzalez as his top-rated cornerback and No. 5 prospect in the entire draft.
“Coming from a family of diverse athletes, Gonzalez has the frame to match up with NFL size and the speed to keep stride vertically with burners at the next level,” Brugler writes. “His tackling skills and ability to turn and restrict passing lanes are ascending parts of his game, but there is still room for improvement in both areas. Overall, Gonzalez needs continued work in zone coverage, but he offers strong man-cover talent with speed, fluid movements and body length to blanket outside receivers. With his high-end traits (similar to Jeff Okudah) and trust in his talent, he has the skill set of a future Pro Bowler.”
Before making a pick, the Patriots traded their initial first-rounder (No. 14) to the Steelers for No. 17 and No. 120 (fourth-rounder) overall. With New England’s original pick, Pittsburgh drafted Broderick Jones, a tackle out of Georgia.
After selecting Marcus Jones and Jack Jones in last year’s draft, the Patriots will have plenty of youth at the cornerback position moving forward. At the Combine, Gonzalez also said he’d really enjoy playing in Bill Belichick’s defense.
“That’s a legend right there,” Gonzalez said. “I’d love to play for him (and) for any team. Whoever is going to put the trust in me, I’m going to put the trust back.”
Story by Chris Mason, masslive.com