The Patriots stayed the course on day two of the NFL Draft by making two selections at their planned slots in the second and third rounds on Friday night.
To begin the night, New England drafted a consensus hybrid defensive end in Keion White from Georgia Tech. White is a long-limbed power rusher who projects as a five-technique defensive end. He has the upper-body power to control the line of scrimmage and power through the pocket.
Based on his skill set and size (6-5, 285 pounds), White is a 3-4 defensive end in a three-point stance rather than a true standup edge rusher. He is already an effective run defender, while his bull rushes with an effective long arm stab can collapse the pocket. If he can build a repertoire of pass-rush moves or use his athleticism as a three-technique interior rusher in the B-Gap, he can become a more impactful pass rusher.
White is more disruption than production as an angry disruptor in the trenches and someone who has flashed as a two-gapping defender at the point of attack. We'll see if he can find another playmaking gear with more seasoning.
As for the Patriots next selection, Sacramento State linebacker Marte Mapu was a bit of a surprise in the third round. Mapu was a Senior Bowl riser with impressive practice film as a downhill run defender in the box. He's an explosive run-through tackler with a knack for playmaking and can play in coverage with a safety background, but he'll need to translate those flashy plays from the FCS to the NFL level.
Mapu is also recovering from a torn pectoral that he suffered in February. As a result, the Pats hybrid linebacker didn't work out at his Pro Day and wasn't invited to the combine, so he has no athletic testing numbers.
Ultimately, the Patriots continued to add to their defense with two more picks on that side of the ball after taking Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez on Thursday night. Although White and Mapu have potential, it's fair to be underwhelmed about the lack of offensive additions.
However, there are still offensive players that we could get behind, with the Patriots holding nine draft selections on day three, including four fourth-round draft choices.
Here are our best players available as we head into day three of the 2023 NFL Draft:
OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State
When highly-touted prospects slide in the draft, something is going on behind the scenes that teams are privy to that we are not. Whether it's medical or something else, Jones shouldn't still be on the board here, so there may be one of those red flags.
Jones, as you'd expect, is a bit heavy-footed at 6-8, 374 pounds. But it never seems to get in his way in pass protection, as he uses his immense length (36-inch arms) and hand strength to shut down pass-rushers before they even get started. As a run blocker, he has people-moving strength as a legit difference-maker.
OT Blake Freeland, BYU
Although it's odd to see Jones making it into day three, Freeland makes more sense, given the inconsistency on his Senior Bowl film. Ultimately, Freeland's height works against him as a skyscraping tackle who lacks the lower-body flexibility to play the leverage game with bendy edge rushers. Still, there are traits to like here in a similar athletic profile as Nate Solder. He is light on his feet and has some people-moving strength to get on a double team and move the line of scrimmage. Like Solder, Freeland's height sometimes worked against him against explosive edge rushers who can bend the arc. But there's enough baseline foot speed and functional power to project a starting left tackle here.
WR Charlie Jones, Purdue
If the Patriots want me completely on board with this draft, they'll select "my guy" at the wide receiver position in Charlie Jones, and the fourth round would be the perfect time for it. The Purdue product is coming off a monster season after transferring from Iowa with 110 catches, 1,361 yards, and 12 touchdowns. He combines great initial burst off the line with outstanding separation quickness at the top of routes, stopping on a dime with quick three-step breaks on comebacks and horizontal cuts. Jones also has excellent ball skills that routinely allow him to make catches in traffic. Jones is one of the best technicians in the class with legit play speed, backed up by his 4.43-second 40-yard dash. He reminds me of Adam Thielen.
TE Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion
Kuntz is the most athletic tight end to ever work out at the combine (10.0 RAS). At 6-6, 255 pounds, Kuntz ran a 4.55-second 40, with a 40-inch vertical and an insane 6.87-second three-cone. His athletic ability translated to a 73-catch season as a junior before an injury derailed his senior season. Kuntz isn't a blocker, but he's a matchup nightmare with vertical burst, some wiggle to uncover, and a tremendous catch radius. My pro comparison here is Mike Gesicki.
OT Nick Saldiveri, Old Dominion
Saldiveri's film, albeit at a lower level of competition, is outstanding, and he registered a 9.47 relative athletic score (out of ten). Saldiveri is incredibly smooth in pass protection with the foot speed and balance to handle difficult pass-rushing assignments on an island. He also uses that athletic profile to be positionally sound as a run blocker and is flexible enough to block on the move. Saldiveri has the traits to develop into a starting tackle.
WR Tyler Scott, Cincinnati
Although he narrowly missed out on my Patriots big board, Scott has an intriguing skillset that could be a day-three steal with further development. Scott is an explosive receiver with a 4.44-speed and a noticeable burst off the line. He has a dynamic gear to win over the top and hits big plays on catch-and-run in-breakers like slants off run actions. Scott had 14 career touchdowns of 30-plus yards, so if you're clamoring for big plays, here's your guy. My hesitation is that Scott wins with pure athleticism right now rather than route detail. He needs to be coached up, and I'm not super confident that he'd hit his ceiling in New England.
OL Braeden Daniels, Utah
Daniels was a four-year starter with experience at multiple positions on Utah's offensive line. The trait that stands out immediately is his explosiveness out of his stance, generating immediate power in the run game, and good depth out of his kick slide to protect his edge. However, he's a ball of clay right now who has enticing athletic traits but several technical issues that need refinement. Mainly, improving his hand usage to carry his hands higher and create latch strength to control blocks would go a long way to projecting him as a starter.
TE Will Mallory, Miami
Mallory is day three Dalton Kincaid or Sam LaPorta. He registered the fastest 40-yard dash among tight ends at the combine (4.54s) and made an impact stretching the field as a seam runner. His catch splitting the cover-two safeties up the seam against North Carolina was eerily similar to Kincaid's highlight-reel grab versus USC. He'll also present a horizontal field stretcher on shallow drags and crosses. Although he gives good effort, Mallory isn't an in-line blocker. But he fits the receiving tight end mold on day three.
RB Roschon Johnson, Texas
It feels like the Patriots will take a running back at some point, so we'll highlight a few now. Although teammate Bijan Robinson was the star in the Texas backfield, many believe Johnson will be a terrific pro. He's a fiery power back with a frame built to absorb contact, run through arm tackles, and finish with power behind his pads. Johnson doesn't have the same dynamic speed as Robinson but is a tough between-the-tackles runner.
RB Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
Vaughn is a jitterbug running back with elite quickness that translates as a runner and receiver. Due to his smaller stature, there are real concerns about Vaughn's projection. Will his 5-5, 179-pound frame hold up in the NFL? It's a legit concern. However, Vaughn is an electric playmaker who projects as a Darren Sproles-type with lateral agility and explosiveness to be a dynamic player. He also effectively ran Pats-style routes out of the backfield, translating into a receiving back role nicely. Vaughn is one of my favorite prospects in this class, and I'm willing to take the chance on his smaller frame at this point in the draft.
RB Eric Gray, Oklahoma
Gray has qualities similar to Vaughn but a bigger frame to withstand NFL contact at 5-9, 207 pounds. The Oklahoma running back makes ridiculous lateral cuts to jump in and out of tackles, stack moves together to get into the second and third level, and should be able to use that quickness in the passing game with separation quickness at the top of routes. If the Patriots want to look for the next James White, and they aren't confident in Vaughn holding up, Gray could be the pick.
Best of the Rest
- OL Warren McClendon, Georgia
- OG Chandler Zavala, NC State
- WR Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State
- WR Parker Washington, Penn State
- RB DeWayne McBride, UAB
- QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson
- WR Trey Palmer, Nebraska
- TE Davis Allen, Clemson
- RB Chase Brown, Illinois
- WR Demario Douglas, Liberty