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Patriots HC Bill Belichick on drafting CB Christian Gonzalez at No. 17: I'm 'glad' he was available

New England's selection of Christian Gonzalez with the 17th overall pick could be seen as a steal.

Regarded by some as the top corner in the 2023 NFL Draft, Gonzalez fell out of the first half of the first round, and the Patriots were happy to snag him after they traded down from the No. 14 pick. When asked why New England selected Gonzalez, head coach Bill Belichick said it was about quality more than need.

"When we go into the draft, we don't really target one guy," Belichick said during a recent interview with The 33rd Team. "Especially when you're drafting at whatever point. Need isn't as big of a criteria as good football players. I learned that at the Giants in [1984] when we took Carl Banks. We had (Lawrence) Taylor, obviously, and it was kind of like, 'Why are we taking another outside linebacker?' As it turned out, that was probably one of the better picks that we had at the Giants. ...

"I don't think it's about where you need a player. If you've got a good football player, nobody's ever gonna regret that. I'm glad Gonzo was there. I think when you just go and look for one guy and then he's not there, there's other players in the draft that can help us, as well. But he's been great to work with, and I look forward to getting him ready to go for training camp."

Two months after the draft, the pick is even more valuable.

Patriots cornerback Jack Jones had a strong rookie season in 2022 and was in line to return as a starter opposite Jonathan Jones, while Belichick's staff would find a way to fit Gonzalez into a group that suddenly appeared to be deep. Instead, Jones' off-field activity has thrown his future into question.

Jones was arrested on June 16 on gun charges after being found with two firearms in his carry-on luggage at Logan International Airport.

Jones pleaded not guilty during an arraignment on Tuesday and faces an uncertain road ahead. The Patriots, meanwhile, might need to lean on Gonzalez more than anticipated to fill a previously unanticipated need at the position.

"We'll work him at a number of positions, again, like we do almost all players at this point in time in the spring, and then narrow it down a little bit when we get to training camp," Belichick said of the Oregon product. "Ultimately, he's most likely going to be a perimeter corner, but I think there are other situations where he could play inside or could play in a deeper part of the field, depending on what the call is or how things present themselves from a game-plan structure from time to time."

Last week's developments might alter Belichick's plan for a rookie cornerback who thrived while playing on the perimeter for the Ducks. A starting spot on the outside could be Gonzalez's before long, but first, he'll have to get acclimated to New England's way of doing things.

If Belichick is right, Gonzalez will find success. And it might be even more important than previously expected.

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