The Patriots have now drafted three defensive players through their first three picks, making it a point of emphasis to strengthen the defense through this draft.
At 6-foot-5, 285 lbs, White started his college career at Old Dominion, where he was a tight end. He switched to defense in 2019, becoming a Second-Team All-Conference USA defensive end in his first year at the position, logging 62 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
In 2020, Old Dominion did not play football during the Coronavirus pandemic, leading White to transfer to Georgia Tech in 2021. In 2022, he recorded 54 tackles with 14 for loss and 7.5 sacks in 12 games for the Yellow Jackets.
White showcased his athleticism at the NFL Combine by running the 40-yard dash in 4.79 seconds, logging 34 inches on the vertical leap, and putting up 30 reps on the bench press. However, the combination of his speed and strength is what sets White apart from the rest.
It’s worth mentioning that Matthew Judon will be 31 years old, and Lawrence Guy will be 33 years old this season. So the Patriots will need a player who can step in and produce. White could prove to be that player.
At 6-foot-3, 217 lbs, Mapu is arguably the most versatile linebacker in this draft, a quality Bill Belichick searches for the most when constructing a team and evaluating prospects.
Mapu started his career as a safety in 2017 and evolved into a hybrid linebacker. In his final season, he recorded 76 tackles en route to earning First-Team All-American and Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year in 2022.
The pure athleticism of Mapu will allow him to play all over the field, including in pass coverage and on special teams. In addition, his versatility will let him play anywhere, including being the type of hybrid linebacker that can move back into the safety position.
Like White, the drafting of Mapu suggests New England is looking for a new identity to lead the defense after Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty’s retirements.
If the Pats don’t re-sign Kyle Dugger— whose set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2024– Mapu could move back into the safety position.
The Patriots could play more nickel defenses with no true linebackers on the roster. It’ll be interesting to see how Mapu is utilized this season, as he can really play anywhere on the field.