Patriots Draft Rumors: Uber-Versatile Defender Visited New England

Marte Mapu is recovering from a pre-draft injury


Apr 17, 2023

Bill Belichick loves stocking his Patriots defender with hybrid defenders who can play multiple positions. Think Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips and Jabrill Peppers, all of whom are safety/linebacker hybrids.

Well, New England’s list of pre-draft visitors includes yet another player in that mold.

Marte Mapu, who played safety, linebacker and even nickel cornerback at FCS Sacramento State, took a top-30 visit to New England, according to a report Monday from Aaron Wilson of KPRC Houston.

The Patriots were one of more than a dozen teams that hosted the 6-foot-3, 217-pounder, per Wilson’s report.

A two-year collegiate starter, Mapu starred at Division I’s lower level, earning Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Big Sky Conference last season. He tallied 76 tackles, 6 1/2 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions and six passes defended last season after grabbing four picks and defending 14 passes in 2021.

Mapu was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine but did receive an invite to the 2023 Senior Bowl, though he suffered an injury in practice that prevented him from playing in that all-star game. He sustained another injury — reportedly a torn pectoral muscle — during pre-draft training that required surgery and prevented him from working out at his pro day.

That recent injury history might partially explain Mapu’s busy schedule of draft visits, as teams often bring in prospects with medical red flags in order to have their own staff evaluate them. These checks are especially important for a non-combine player like Mapu, who did not undergo the battery of tests that players invited to Indianapolis did.

On the field, Mapu sounds like the kind of player who’d pique the Patriots’ interest. He’s regarded for his versatility and physicality, with The Athletic’s Dane Brugler calling him “a drive-through, knockback tackler” and “very aggressive and savvy … blitzer” with strong film study habits and a “blue-collar work ethic.”

In his “The Beast” draft guide, Brugler ranked Mapu as the No. 100 overall prospect in this year’s class, projecting him as a third- or fourth-round pick. He also noted that Sacramento State’s coaches called Mapu a “silent assassin” for his “humble personality but violent play.”

Scouting reports ding Mapu for his subpar speed and short-area quickness, and for the quality of competition he faced at the FCS level.

“Overall, all 32 NFL teams are looking for long, explosive athletes who can play the run and cover, and Mapu has shown those traits as a potential matchup weapon,” Brugler wrote. “With his ability to identify as either a linebacker or ‘big’ safety, he is scheme diverse with the talent to be a core special-teamer.”

The Patriots lost starting free safety Devin McCourty to retirement but are set to return every other contributor from their 2022 secondary. They’re also running it back with the same linebacking corps after re-signing reserves Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson, but they could look to improve either or both of those units through the draft.

Thumbnail photo via Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports Images
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