You’d be hard-pressed to find many critics of the Patriots’ decision to draft Christian Gonzalez in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
New England was able to grab the Oregon cornerback midway through the first round even after trading down and scooping up a fourth-round pick in the process. Gonzalez was considered by a lot of draft experts to be one of the top corner prospects in the draft. That he fell to the Patriots at No. 17 was surprising to many.
That includes ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who included the Patriots in his winners of the first round.
“I also liked what the Patriots did with their part of the trade with the Steelers,” Kiper wrote on ESPN.com. “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.”
If Gonzalez is as good as many believe he can be, getting him at No. 17 will look better and better over time. That will be even more true if Gonzalez is able to step on the field and immediately contribute. The AFC East is loaded with elite receiving skill on each of the Patriots’ division rivals. Being able to slow down those opposing offenses, especially with New England’s question marks about its own offense, could be quite helpful.
As for the rest of the draft, the Patriots could address that offense — or any other part of their roster — with 11 picks remaining over the final six rounds, more than any other team in the league.