ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. reveals final 2023 NFL Draft grade for Patriots
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. reveals final 2023 NFL Draft grade for Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The New England Patriots entered the 2023 NFL Draft with 11 picks, and after trading down in the first round, they ended up with 12 selections.
Head coach Bill Belichick and his staff had a lot of ammo to move up in the draft, but they didn't make many trades. The result was 12 new rookies added to the roster.
Offensive tackle and wide receiver were two positions that garnered most of the pre-draft attention from a Patriots' perspective. So it was pretty surprising that the Patriots didn't address either position until Day 3 on Saturday.
That said, most experts actually liked what the Patriots did in this draft overall. In fact, experts were almost unanimous in their praise of the Patriots' first-round selection -- Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez at No. 17 overall.
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One of those draft experts who approved of the Gonzalez pick was ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. He released his final draft grades for all 32 teams on Saturday, and the Patriots received a "B+".
"New England was in a spot to get a starter, either at cornerback, offensive tackle or wide receiver. And that's what Bill Belichick was able to do, trading down for cornerback Christian Gonzalez (17), a player I had ranked in the top 10," Kiper wrote. "This is a fantastic get."
The Patriots continued to bolster their defense in the second and third rounds.
They selected Georgia Tech edge rusher Keion White with the No. 46 overall pick (second round). White tallied 7.5 sacks last season. The Patriots upgraded at linebacker with the No. 76 overall pick (third round) by taking Sacramento State star Marte Mapu.
"I also liked the Keion White (46) selection in the middle of Round 2," Kiper wrote. "He has the position flexibility to play with his hand in the dirt or standing up on the edge of the D-line. I thought the Pats reached a little bit for linebacker Marte Mapu (76), but he is a solid player, so I'm not going to ding them much."
Curran: Patriots' draft suggests they didn't love late-round talent
Day 3 of the draft was an interesting one for the Patriots. They were the only team in the entire draft to select both a kicker and punter. They also selected three interior linemen when offensive tackle was a huge need entering the draft. But the pick on Saturday that generated the most buzz was LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte with the No. 187 overall selection (sixth round).
Kiper called Boutte "one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft. Coming into the 2022 season, we thought he might be a first-round pick; he had nine touchdowns on just 38 catches in 2021. Then he had a poor season and an even worse pre-draft process, testing terribly at the combine. If the Patriots can untap his talent, he could be a major steal, but I have doubts."
The Patriots' last three draft classes have produced some pretty good players. And if the Patriots are going to get back to the playoffs from a super competitive AFC East division next season, they'll need the 2023 class to contribute on both sides of the ball.