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Patriots 1st-round pick already looking the part

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During mandatory minicamp on Monday, New England Patriots first-round pick and cornerback Christian Gonzalez is already living up to the hype.

The New England Patriots had an eventful first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. They were able to trade down to the No. 17 overall pick in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers to gain draft capital, watched the AFC North team draft Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones ahead of the rival New York Jets, and got one of the best cornerback prospects in the draft. Of course, we’re talking about Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez.

The belief was that Gonzalez could go in the Top 10, but that wasn’t the case, with Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon going fifth overall to the Seattle Seahawks. Gonzalez wasn’t even the second cornerback taken off the board, as Emmanuel Forbes went just ahead of him to the Washington Commanders with the No. 16 pick. Instead, he gets to play for head coach Bill Belichick.

On the first day of mandatory minicamp on Monday, The Athletic’s Jeff Howe noted that Gonzalez was practicing alongside the starters and that he “absolutely looked the part.” Additionally, Howe noted that he recorded a pass breakup while covering DeVante Parker.

Patriots rookie Christian Gonzalez making a statement in mandatory minicamp

This is the news that Patriots fans have to love seeing. But as Howe notes, this is only one practice. As you readers know, fans want to see Gonzalez play this well during the regular season.  For Patriots fans, they are hoping that he will make an immediate, difference-making impact in his first year much like Sauce Gardner did with the rival Jets last season.

Gonzalez originally played for the Colorado Buffaloes at the start of his collegiate career but decided to transfer to Oregon in 2022. In 12 games played for the Ducks, Gonzalez recorded 50 total tackles (35 solo, 15 assisted), seven passes defended, and four interceptions.

It will be interesting to see how Belichick will utilize Gonzalez this season. Let’s not forget that they still have cornerbacks Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills, and Jack Jones on the depth chart. If Gonzalez continues his strong play throughout minicamp, training camp, and in preseason games, it would be hard to imagine him not getting meaningful snaps in his first NFL season.