Could Christian Gonzalez start Week 1 for Patriots? Devin McCourty weighs in
Could Christian Gonzalez start Week 1? Devin McCourty weighs in originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The New England Patriots upgraded the depth and talent level of their defense over the first two days of the 2023 NFL Draft.
They got one of the best cornerbacks in Christian Gonzalez at No. 17 in the first round. On Day 2, the Patriots selected Georgia Tech edge rusher Keion White in the second round and Sacramento State linebacker Marte Mapu in the third round.
Former Patriots safety Devin McCourty liked what New England did in the draft last weekend, and he's especially impressed with the addition of Gonzalez.
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"A good solid draft. As soon as they drafted Christian Gonzalez, the draft became solid no matter what happened," McCourty said Tuesday night during NBC Sports Boston show "Quick Slants."
"I think that kid is going to be a stud in the NFL. And I'm not going to lie, I don't watch a ton of college football, but since this whole process has started, everyone has been saying (Devon) Witherspoon and Gonzalez. It seemed like these were the top two cornerbacks you could get, and I think for the Patriots to walk away with one of these guys at No. 17, you gotta be happy about that."
Gonzalez, who's listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, tallied 35 solo tackles with four interceptions and seven passes defended in 12 games for Oregon last season.
Would Gonzalez be able to start at cornerback Week 1 as a 20-year-old rookie?
"Yeah, no doubt about it," McCourty said. "When you draft a guy that high -- I got drafted at No. 27 overall and had a chance to start and ended up starting as a rookie. You get this guy at No. 17 in a position where they have guys who have been there, but there's kind of no long-standing veteran at corner other than Jon Jones, and for most of his career other than last year, he's been inside in the slot. I think Gonzalez will get a chance to compete. Bill Belichick has said it many times -- it's always going to be a competition. He's not going to just hand somebody the keys and say you're starting. I think Gonzalez will get a chance."
The Patriots choosing to add defensive players with their first three picks was pretty surprising given their weaknesses on offense. Perhaps it was a sign that New England will try to win on defense next season.
"Defense wins championships. We can debate whether that's valid in 2023, but that's what the draft says to me when you take a cornerback in Round 1 and a defensive end in Round 2," NBC Sports Boston's Patriots insider Phil Perry said on "Quick Slants."
"And you already had a pretty damn good defense in 2022. I know (McCourty) isn't there anymore and there's probably a little more uncertainty on that side of the ball, but to add with your two premium assets in the draft on the defensive side when it looked like the offense needed a lot of help this offseason, it tells me Bill Belichick still thinks defense wins championships."