Patriots take edge rusher White, versatile Mapu in NFL draft
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Keion White was one of 17 NFL draft prospects who made the trip to Kansas City, Missouri, to sit backstage in hopes of getting selected and having a national TV moment on stage with Commissioner Roger Goodell.
He sat in the green room for the entire first round without hearing his name called.
He didn't return for Friday night's Round 2, but he didn't have to wait too long.
The New England Patriots picked the Georgia Tech standout 46th overall, adding one of the most agile edge rushers in this year’s draft class.
White said he had no regrets about his draft experience.
“I got to experience going to the NFL draft. I'll never experience that ever again. There was only 17 guys in the world that got to experience the 2023 NFL draft. So, you take the moment in," White said. "No matter where I got picked, I still got picked. And I still have to put work in after this point.
“It was a good experience. And now it's time to get to work.”
The Patriots also selected Sacramento State safety-linebacker hybrid Marte Mapu with the 76th overall pick in the third round, leaving them with nine remaining picks. A trade with the Steelers on Thursday gave New England a fourth-round pick (120th overall).
On Thursday, the Patriots moved back three spots in the first round and selected former Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez with the 17th pick.
White began his career at Old Dominion as a tight end before transferring to the Yellow Jackets and moving to defense. The 6-foot-5, 285-pounder had 17 1/2 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss last season.
Mapu, at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, was a first-team FCS All-American and the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2022. He finished his final season with 76 tackles, including 6 1/2 for a loss, two interceptions, four pass breakups and a blocked kick.
His profile is similar to that of fourth-year Patriots safety Kyle Dugger, who played at Division II Lenore-Rhyne an is now a versatile part of New England's defense.
White is still a novice on the edge, having played there for only two seasons. But he believes it gives him a lot of room to master different techniques as a professional.
“There's still so much stuff to learn,” he said. “The transition was for the best. It got me to this point now. But I'm still working. I'm still improving, I feel like we all are. No matter if you're an All-Pro or you're a rookie.”
White never met with the Patriots during the draft process, but he said he thinks their ability to develop talent meshes well with his business-first approach to football.
“It was a surprise to me. I feel like our personalities mix well, though. So I feel like it's a really good fit,” White said. “I'm not too big in the glitz and glamour of football. I want to work. I want to win. I feel like that's what the Patriots offer. I feel like that's where we meet in the middle at.”
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Kyle Hightower, The Associated Press