The Patriots kicked off their 2023 NFL Draft by selecting Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez with the 17th overall pick. Gonzalez was the consensus number one on both my and Evan Lazar's big boards, as he's one of the best corners in the class, a versatile and athletic player who can play any style of coverage and is an excellent fit for the Patriots.
Gonzalez fills an immediate need as an outside corner and enters a room with good depth, including two rookies from last year, Marcus Jones and Jack Jones. Gonzalez is unique with his size and ability to play multiple coverages.
The Pats started the night off by trading down from the 14th overall pick to the 17th pick while also picking up a fourth-round pick (120) from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The move gives the team four fourth-round picks to play with in the next two days. They were fortunate to still get Gonzalez who should provide an immediate boost.
From NFL.com: Explosive outside cornerback possessing a rare blend of physical and athletic traits. Gonzalez plays with fluid hips and blazing top-end speed, which should help him match against top-end targets in the future. He can rough up the release or use mirror-and-match footwork from press-man coverage and he has all the tools to become a highly capable route shadow. His technique will get away from him at times and he doesn't play with the level of instincts or ball skills that should make heavy ball production automatic. His testing numbers could send his draft stock skyrocketing, but the ingredients are already present to become a feared CB1 if he plays to his gifts.
From Dane Brugler/The Athletic: Overall, Gonzalez needs continued work in zone coverage, but he offers strong man-cover talent with speed, fluid movements and body length to blanket outside receivers. With his high-end traits (similar to Jeff Okudah) and trust in his talent, he has the skill set of a future Pro Bowler.
View photos of Patriots first round pick, cornerback Christian Gonzalez in action at Oregon.