Of the players taken in the New England Patriots’ 2023 draft class, none came into the league with more intrigue than third-round pick Marte Mapu out of Sacramento State. Between his positional versatility and small-school background many weren’t sure what would be in store for the 76th overall pick.
Mapu played linebacker at Sacramento State, and worked out at that position during the pre-draft process. However, at 6-foot-3, 217 pounds he was well undersized for a typical Patriots linebacker.
For most of the spring and summer the big question around Mapu was his usage plan. Would the team play him at his natural position, adding that dynamic, athletic, sideline-to-sideline middle linebacker (in the mold of guys like Fred Warner or Matt Milano) to their defensive scheme? Would they have him put on size, and play him like a traditional off-ball linebacker? Or would they convert him into a box safety, which is more where his athletic profile fit in the Patriots’ traditional defense?
Through spring practices and into training camp, it looked like the Patriots might try a combination of the three. Despite coming off of offseason shoulder surgery and wearing a red non-contact jersey the Patriots kept Mapu – who bulked up to 230 pounds – heavily involved in a number of roles. He lined up all over the defense, and seemed to be having success doing so. That only built the hype around him as the season started.
Since the regular season began though, things haven’t looked the same for Mapu. His defensive opportunities have been few and far between. Through 12 games he’s been on the field for just 19 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps (he’s played 48 percent on special teams), logging less than 10 snaps on six occasions while two of his highest snap totals have come in blowouts. When he is on the field the positional versatility isn’t there – 61 percent of his defensive snaps have come as a defensive back, per PFF.