Second-round draft pick Keion White saw the highest snap rate of his young Patriots career Sunday, playing 87% of defensive snaps against the Los Angeles Chargers with veteran Deatrich Wise sidelined due to illness.

The same could not be said about New England’s third-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Rookie safety/linebacker Marte Mapu was on the field for just three defensive snaps in the team’s 6-0 loss at Gillette Stadium, with all of those coming in the opening 16 minutes.

The Sacramento State product had a legitimate defensive role early this season but has faded of late, logging just seven total snaps on defense and 26 on special teams over the Patriots’ last three games.

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Head coach Bill Belichick was asked Monday morning about Mapu’s lack of playing time. He said the team isn’t interested in taking starting safeties Jabrill Peppers and Kyle Dugger off the field just to get reps for a developing player.

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“Well, we have pretty good depth at that (safety) position,” Belichick said. “Obviously, Peppers and Dugger are two of our best players — two of the better players in the league at that position — so we’re not really looking to get them off the field and just get playing time for somebody.

“You use players around guys like Dugger and Peppers situationally because you think they can help you in that situation in a certain package. So that’s really what players need to do in situations like that: develop an opportunity and then be ready to perform well when those opportunities come to create more opportunities. And Te has done that.”

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Not enough to earn a regular role, however. Mapu has 14 tackles, no interceptions and no pass breakups this season. He’s also been involved in multiple coverage busts, including one in the Patriots’ Week 8 loss to Miami and one early in Sunday’s game.

“He’s a hard-working kid,” Belichick said. “He really pays attention. Very studious and attentive, and he’s improved a lot through the course of the year. I think he’s a good player, will be a good player, but he’s still young and inexperienced, and right now, the guys who are ahead of him are just ahead of him.”

Belichick’s comments also indicate the Patriots view Mapu as a safety, not an undersized, athletic linebacker. He played both positions in training camp and garnered rave reviews from teammates for his versatility and intelligence.

That fact makes New England’s decision to take him with the 76th overall pick a questionable one, especially since the team passed on talented prospects at wide receiver, offensive tackle and tight end to do so. Safety already was one of New England’s deepest position groups even after Devin McCourty’s offseason retirement, making Mapu something of a luxury pick for a team that had clear needs elsewhere.

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The 24-year-old could be in line for a more prominent role in Year 2 if Dugger, whose rookie contract expires in March, departs in free agency. But his rookie season has been largely forgettable.

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images