There has been no shortage of analysis about the recent NFL Draft, from ESPN to NFL Network to The Athletic to hundreds of websites and media outlets.
We know the experts loved the Patriots’ pick of cornerback Christian Gonzalez at No. 17. And that there was some disappointment that they didn’t get more help for Mac Jones. And a few people have questioned the wisdom of trading up to draft a kicker.
But what about those inside the NFL who had the inside information on the prospects and competed against the Patriots for players?
An AFC front office executive believes the Patriots “got a starting cornerback and eventual starters at defensive and probably interior offensive line,” while also getting good value on a couple of late-round receivers.
An AFC East college scout sees a lot of developmental prospects.
And an NFC special teams coordinator said the Patriots’ approach was clear: “They upgraded their special teams considerably,” which was a must after they allowed three kickoff-return touchdowns last year and had the worst punt team in the NFL.
Some insight into the Patriots’ picks:
▪ The AFC executive said he expected Gonzalez to be a top 10-12 pick, and getting him at No. 17 is a “very good outcome.” Gonzalez was the “consensus second-best cornerback in this draft class” among the scouting directors and general managers he spoke to, with a great combination of length and speed at 6 feet 1 inch and a 4.38 in the 40.
The one knock on Gonzalez is his tackling, which the executive called “marginal — has to improve.”
The AFC East scout also believes the Patriots got Gonzalez “at good value, even in the first. He plays a premium position with HWS (height, weight, speed) and instincts.”
▪ The executive liked second-round defensive end Keion White, who at 6-4, 285 pounds “fits their successful profile of long power rushers,” like Deatrich Wise and Chandler Jones. The executive said White is a “physical edge player with heavy hands and high effort” who is better at defensive end but can provide value as an inside pass rusher.
He sees White developing into a solid starter in time if he can be more consistent with his hand use.
The scout believes White has “developmental upside” since he’s a converted tight end who has played defense for only three years, but he “is still learning the position, and that can show up in reading blocks and finding the ball.”
▪ The Patriots took another project in the third round in Sacramento State linebacker/safety Marte Mapu. The AFC executive noted that Mapu mostly played in space in college and was productive in coverage, with 20 passes defended and six interceptions in his last two seasons.
But Mapu is a classic tweener at 6-3, 220 pounds.
“Not fast enough to be an NFL safety full-time, not big enough for linebacker,” the executive said. “But I imagine they see him as at least a role player at coverage LB to draft him there.”
Mapu was also the first of several picks who should be core special teams players right away. The scout believes Mapu will likely play at outside linebacker and “will likely earn his keep on special teams as he develops.”
▪ The Patriots’ first pick in the fourth round, Troy guard/center Jake Andrews, received positive reviews. The AFC executive said Andrews at 6-2 is “a little short” but “I like him — tough, strong, smart interior offensive line. Could start at guard or center.”
The scout said Andrews has played center for only a year “but has the type of character that you think he will maximize his ability and reach his ceiling.”
Andrews will be a top backup at multiple interior spots and could compete with eight-year veteran David Andrews for the starting center job.
▪ The next fourth-round pick was Maryland kicker Chad Ryland, whom the Patriots traded up for after the 49ers took Michigan’s Jake Moody late in the third round. The AFC executive didn’t scout kickers, “but guys who did thought [Ryland] was the best in the draft.”
The NFC special teams coach called Ryland “a close second to Moody.” The coordinator also noted that the Patriots needed Ryland because Nick Folk can’t handle kickoffs and they released Jake Bailey.
▪ The Patriots took two more interior offensive linemen in the fourth and fifth rounds. The AFC executive called Eastern Michigan’s Sidy Sow “big, powerful and a good athlete with starter tools,” but he’s “inconsistent with fundamentals and technique and might take time.” UCLA’s Atonio Mafi, at 6-2, 330, is a “massive man” who can struggle with quickness but “plays through the whistle and is fun to watch.”
The AFC East scout said Mafi “brings size and power to help in more of a gap scheme run game.”
▪ In the sixth round, the Patriots took two slot receivers. The AFC executive said LSU’s Kayshon Boutte, listed at 5-11 and 195, can back up JuJu Smith-Schuster. “He can run good routes and has some size, but isn’t fast enough to consistently separate,” the executive said.
Boutte reportedly dropped to the sixth round because of character concerns, but the executive said he was concerned with “a few too many drops” — seven last year and 16 in three seasons. Still, he called Boutte “good value for where he was drafted.”
The AFC East scout said, “You hope Boutte can get back to being the player he was as a young kid,” when Boutte went for 308 yards in a game against Ole Miss in 2020.
The other slot receiver is Liberty’s Demario Douglas, whom the AFC executive called his favorite Day 3 pick for the Patriots. He’s only 5-8 and 182 pounds, “more slender than traditional Patriots slot guys,” the executive said, but “very good value to get him that late. He’s a fast, quick playmaker, just a little short.”
The NFC special teams coach also called Douglas “a very good punt returner,” giving the Patriots solid depth behind second-year dynamo Marcus Jones.
▪ The NFC special teams coordinator simply said that sixth-round pick Bryce Baringer out of Michigan State was the “best punter in the draft.” He was First Team All-Big Ten and a consensus All-American.
▪ In the seventh round, the Patriots took two more tall, press-man cornerbacks who can develop behind Gonzalez while also serving as core special teamers. Michigan State’s Ameer Speed, a Georgia transfer, stands 6-3 and ran a 4.33 in the 40. “Appropriate last name,” the executive said. “He’s a fast, long cornerback with press traits who is an excellent gunner on the punt unit.”
Jackson State’s Isaiah Bolden is 6-2, 201 pounds, and also ran a 4.33.
“Has all the physical tools, and with rare timed speed, but just hasn’t put it together into consistently good play,” said the executive. “He played inside at Jackson State, but might be better as an outside press cornerback.”
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.