New England Patriots 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Christian Gonzalez Brings a New Defensive Identity to the Pats

    Defense is the name of the game for this New England Patriots 2023 NFL Mock Draft, and Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez highlights a seven-round mock.

    It came down to the wire, but the New England Patriots missed out on the playoffs and have set their sights on the offseason already. Picking for Bill Belichick is always a fun exercise, and this Patriots mock draft is an example of that. In this scenario, simulated trades were active among other teams via the Mock Draft Simulator, but the Patriots held steady and did not make any moves.

    Latest New England Patriots 2023 NFL Mock Draft

    Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon | Round 1, Pick 14

    Showcasing his elite coverage ability with Oregon in 2022, Christian Gonzalez put himself on the map in a big way. On multiple occasions, Gonzalez peeled off his receiver to make plays on the ball that weren’t even in his target range, showcasing range.

    But his best attribute is his ability in man coverage. Gonzalez put forth an impressive display of defensive back teach tape in seemingly every game, as he baited and switched receivers, blanketed them, or just downright defeated them at the line of scrimmage with any number of elite-level intangibles.

    He’s a surefire starter from day one and helps usher in a new era of coverage for the Patriots.

    Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee | Round 2, Pick 46

    With speed to burn and a bevy of routes on his route tree, Jalin Hyatt wowed in 2022. Sure, some of his production was schemed open, but when you have the speed Hyatt possesses with the hands and balance utilizes, there is no scheme that is going to contain him for four quarters.

    MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board

    The Patriots need an elite receiving weapon this offseason, and they get one with Hyatt in Round 2.

    Bralen Trice, EDGE, Washington | Round 3, Pick 76

    An impressive edge rusher, Bralen Trice won so many battles in 2022 that he started to receive the Chase Young treatment the former Buckeye got a few years back. Trice was game-planned against, run away from, and simply avoided because of his presence off the edge for the Huskies.

    He has size (6’4″, 269) and speed, an impressive wingspan, and some of the best pass-rushing moves among the Day 2 pass rushers. Perhaps his best attribute is the fact that he’s still considered an ascending prospect.

    Isaiah Land, LB, Florida A&M | Round 4, Pick 104

    Don’t put it past Bill Belichick to draft a player from a smaller school, and Isaiah Land could very well be that guy. Land comes from Florida A&M and will be at the Senior Bowl, where he’ll put his name out there nationally.

    But you heard about him here first. He comes with size concerns for his position. Despite tipping the scales at 6’4″, he weighs only around 220 pounds. Will the bulking he needs to do take away from his speed? If it doesn’t, Belichick hits another home run here.

    Tuli Tuipulotu, DL, USC | Round 4, Pick 114

    Triple dipping on defensive front players, the selection of Tuli Tuipulotu gives the aforementioned Land time to develop and grow. Tuipulotu is NFL-ready at a number of positions but may not naturally fit at any of them.

    He wreaked havoc on Pac-12 quarterbacks this season, nearly pulling off the pass-rushing triple-double (double-digit sacks, hits, hurries) and doing so mainly when rushing off the edge. At 6’4″ and 290 pounds, Tuipulotu is more of an interior rusher at the next level.

    The rotation of Tuipulotu, Land, and Trice could become a staple of the Belichick defense in no time.

    Zakhari Franklin, WR, UTSA | Round 6, Pick 170

    A big-play threat both with his ability to win downfield and his yards after the catch, Zakhari Franklin is certainly on the radar of all 32 NFL teams. New England pulls the trigger on the UTSA record holder after four amazing seasons with the Roadrunners.

    Franklin plays a much bigger game than his frame indicates and can win from anywhere in the formation. He has great contested catch skills but can also win with his ability to separate.

    Hunter Luepke, RB, North Dakota State | Round 6, Pick 173

    Again, leave it to Belichick to take a shot and hit a home run on a lesser-known prospect. Hunter Luepke may not leave the pre-draft circuit as a lesser-known prospect, but he certainly is now.

    The North Dakota State fullback is much more than what his position may indicate. In fact, his best attributes may be seen on the receiving end of passes out of the backfield. Luepke could be in line for a positional switch to tight end — he’s that good. Oh, and he’s almost guaranteed to get you the first down whenever the touches it in short-yardage situations.

    Anfernee Orji, LB, Vanderbilt | Round 6, Pick 178

    A three-down linebacker in the sixth round? Hard to come by, unless you’re Anfernee Orji, who has consistently flown under the radar his entire career. The Vanderbilt middle linebacker has coverage skills at an elite level and instincts that rival some All-Pros.

    MORE: 2023 NFL Mock Draft

    He’ll need bulking up in the weight room to improve his play strength a touch, but Orji has the ability to start on Sundays almost immediately.

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