Updated: Apr 30
Friday brought a host of picks that many thought were directionally against how the Pats would draft. PIC: New England Patriots
After trading down with the Pittsburgh Steelers when they'd realized Christian Gonzalez would still be on the board for them at 17, the Patriots had a unique position in the 2023 NFL Draft. They racked up three picks in round 4, and had a whopping four picks in round 6, giving them a total of 11 picks after Day One.
So, naturally, many thought they'd trade up these pieces in order to garner a more favorable position on Day Two. These takes were wrong.
The Pats made each of their selections in order and stood pat on flipping them. This recap focuses on the Day Two picks; we'll break down the draft as a whole later.
Round 2, #46 overall: Keion White - DE/EDGE, Georgia Tech
After the Pats addressed the defensive back need, all eyes shifted to the offensive line and receiving core for New England. Syracuse offensive tackle Matthew Bergeron, who was described as a "perfect fit" for the Patriot culture, was snagged after Atlanta traded up six picks to take him at #38. Ole Miss product Jonathan Mingo, tabbed as one of the best traditional wideouts in the draft, went a pick after that to Carolina. So the Pats refocused to one, simple, three-word phrase: best player available.
There was no question about it that the player they needed to take with this strategy was Georgia Tech defensive end Keion White.
Noted NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah ranked Keion White as #28 on the Big Board, and for good reason. White stood out with the Yellow Jackets last season; he racked up 54 tackles and 7.5 sacks, adding in a pass deflection in the 12 games he suited up for in 2022. Third Team All-ACC honors were awarded to him for his efforts.
An anonymous AFC defensive line coach raved about the move to NBC Sports' Phil Perry. "Really smart...he can do what (Deatrich) Wise does," he said. "Line up on the edge and inside, too. This guy is tough. Good motor. Big. Fast. Good production... Could kick inside and play next to (Christian) Barmore when (Josh) Uche comes on the field."
White figures to slot into an already crowded defensive line room with Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, and Davon Godchaux all getting nods to the "first unit." However, the Pats routinely rotate their offensive line configurations, getting Christian Barmore, Daniel Ekuale, and Anfernee Jennings a solid amount of snaps per game. White allows the defensive playmakers to be more comfortable in trying new rotations and bolster their pressure.
White's critics note that he's only a recently-minted defensive end, having played the start of his career at tight end at Old Dominion before switching his position and transferring to Georgia Tech in 2019. Of course, White didn't pay any mind to that; his first full season after the switch to DE led to 62 tackles, 19 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble one interception.
Let's address the elephant in the room; he did not look happy when he was drafted. After being pressed by CBS Boston, he made a comment to address it: “I don't know if y’all seen on TV, but I'm a pretty chill person,” he said. “So I’m not very like explosive in excitement in any form. So I’ve just kind of been taking it in, and I haven’t even talked to my family, to be honest. I’ve just kind of taken it all in and handled it myself for sure.”
This guy will fit right in.
Round 3, #76 overall (via CAR): Marte Mapu - S, Sacramento State
Round Three. Finally the time for some offensive help, right? No: in true Patriot fashion, they turned heads for another pick.
The Pats stood pat again with their 11 Day Two picks stashed, and selected Sacramento State safety Marte Mapu at #76. Many pundits believed there might have been better talent on the board at this point, from higher-caliber schools. But, apparently, the Pats saw something in Mapu that many may not have.
The above clip from Evan Lazar is courtesy of the Senior Bowl, in which Mapu's side was coordinated by Pats' defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington. He suffered a pectoral injury and couldn't do any of the typical combine activities before the NFL Draft, so his stock never really rose above a 3rd-or-4th-rounder for most NFL analysts.
A huge trait that stood out was Mapu's explosiveness and versaitility in both the nickelback and strong safety positions. He figures to play quite a similar role to Kyle Dugger, who can excel in coverage and also make a big hit when needed.
"New England took my guy," an anonymous NFC linebackers coach told NBC Sports. "Big upside. Played nickel and safety. Really smart...big hitter. Really tough."
Mapu had some eyes on him, but the Pats get another reliable, versatile body in the secondary that they can play in a variety of different roles.