The New England Patriots left the first round with a player that they weren’t expecting to be available at 14th overall or even at 17 after trading down three spots.
The Patriots selected Christian Gonzalez, a cornerback out of Oregon with their first pick in the NFL Draft at 17th overall. Here’s what went into New England’s decision to select the top cornerback in the draft. Let’s look into how New England landed Gonzalez.
In the most Patriot Way possible, the team followed their draft philosophies and remained patient in allowing the board to unfold organically. In fact, the Patriots traded down from 14 to 17 in a swap with the Pittsburgh Steelers who drafted offensive tackle Broderick Jones.
Before the Patriots were on the clock at 14, three quarterbacks, four linebackers, and four offensive linemen were drafted. It’s fair to say the Pats were playing the board to make their decision.
If Darnell Wright, Peter Skoronski, or Paris Johnson Jr were still available, New England would have likely selected one of them as simply being the best players on the board.
The Patriots were linked to many players in a unique position with the 14th overall pick. The way the draft worked itself out, the Patriots weren’t expecting Gonzalez to be available to them and he’s too good of a player to pass up on. It’s also drafting for a position of need in New England’s secondary, they couldn’t have selected a better player to step in and make an immediate impact.
At this point in the draft, the Patriots must’ve had a strong inference that Gonzalez would be available to them after trading down, as the Washington Commanders selected a cornerback just before New England at 16, Emmanuel Forbes, who was projected to be a late first round pick and not in the teens.
Another position of need the Patriots search to target and have been linked to in the draft is a wide receiver. It’s worth mentioning the Pats could have selected the first wide receiver in the draft at 14th or 17th overall, allowing them to have the pick of their choice as Seattle drafted the first wide receiver of the night at 20th overall in Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
After Seattle drafted JSN, the next three picks that followed were all wide receivers— Quentin Johnston (LAC), Zay Flowers (BAL), Jordan Addison (MIN).
As the draft progressed, you could start to see the outline for the Patriots to shift directions. After a trio of quarterbacks, the Houston Texans moving down and then back up, top-10 projections falling, the Patriots had a strong feeling of how the draft was going to play out.
Drafting Gonzalez in the first round shows the Patriots have a plan moving forward and not their original plan. There’s plenty of offensive linemen and wide receiver talent in this draft that the Patriots can target and find in other rounds, perhaps more confidently than they can a cornerback.
Gonzalez is a gamechanger, a high-impact player who can match up and shutdown the opposing team’s best wide receiver. This is an outstanding pick at 14 and even more impressive to trade down and get him at 17.