New England Patriots

Sacramento State linebacker Marte Mapu (Sacramento State Athletics)

In the third round of the NFL Draft Friday night, the Patriots went three for three on defensive picks when they took Sacramento State linebacker/safety Marte Mapu. Mapu, who was the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year in 2022, was one of the top-rated non-FBS players in this draft.

What can Patriots fans expect from the versatile, hard-hitting 23-year-old? Here’s what some of the top NFL Draft experts have to say about Mapu.

  • Lance Zierlein,

    “Mapu has been praised for his versatility, but he might need to prove he can excel in at least one department — whether in run support or in coverage — at the next level. He lacks short-area athleticism and long speed, so his man coverage might be limited to tight ends. He is highly instinctive from short zone and is a very willing hitter when playing near the box. It won’t be a surprise if Mapu adds weight and locks in as a backup weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense as a pro.”


  • The Draft Network

    “A quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker, safety, and corner in high school, Marte Mapu has been considered a swiss army knife for as long as he’s been playing football. Now a six-year senior heading into the NFL draft, Mapu’s performance at the Senior Bowl has earned him significant buzz and has gotten him on every organization’s radar. Marte finished the season with 76 tackles, 6.5 of those coming behind the line of scrimmage, and added two interceptions, a sack, and a blocked kick to his resume in a season where he was voted the Big Sky Player of the Year as well as an AP First-Team All-American.

    Long, rangy, and physical are all the key adjectives to describe Mapu’s game. Serving a plethora of roles for the Sacramento State Hornets, Mapu’s physical traits were used to their fullest extent, lining up primarily as a nickel safety but also consistently making appearances as a stack backer, force player, and even as a single high safety. His athleticism quickly jumps out on film, pairing elite closing speed with innate lower-body fluidity that allows him to be extremely effective in both the pass and run game.

    Given the surplus of positions Mapu was asked to play at, it’s easy to notice his genuine feel for the game. In the pass game, he quickly diagnoses route concepts and does a good job of being disciplined in his coverage. It often seems like he has eyes in the back of his head, as he does a fantastic job of being able to cover his blind spots as a second-level coverage defender. Given his physical tools and IQ, Mapu is a matchup nightmare for tight ends and slot receivers in both man and zone coverage. He mirrors shifty route-runners with ease down the field and is very effective in trail technique which he was asked to use consistently as a slot defender. His range and ability to cover ground made him dangerous in all areas of the field, but his physicality in coverage neutralized route-runners and would often force tight window passes where he would demonstrate great ball skills to be able to intercept or swipe away passes. With his size, Marte will be an immediate answer to the new age of dynamic tight ends that have started to take the league by storm.

    In the run game, Marte stays focused and disciplined to stay in his gap and patiently waits to strike. When he gets his eyes set on a ball carrier’s hip, he quickly penetrates and explodes through his tackles. When engaged with blockers at the second level, Marte will need to improve his ability to shock and shed climbing tight ends and offensive linemen. His inability to do so in just a handful of similar reps makes the outlook of his ability as a true linebacker somewhat troubling, but not doubtful. Improving this trait will go a long way in becoming a more complete run stopper, which he is more than capable of being if he adds some mass to his frame.

    In the open field, Marte sometimes struggled to stay in front of shifty ball carriers, seemingly having his feet stuck in cement at times. In an NFL that has an increased focus on yards after the catch, matching this mindset as a defender will be important for Marte to do. Bearing in mind his athletic ability, I feel more inclined to assume that these poor reps are simply outliers, as he time and time again makes explosive and hard-hitting tackles against more stagnant ball carriers.

    All in all, Mapu projects as a hybrid defender in the NFL, capable of playing all over the field. While history is not so kind to similar players, I fully believe in Marte’s ability to succeed in the NFL considering his track record of different positions he was asked to play in both high school and college. I believe Mapu is fully deserving of a day-two selection, and believe he can potentially be a star in the league with a couple seasons in his belt and in the right situation.”


  • Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network

    Strengths: Small-school defensive back who projects to outside linebacker in the NFL. Disciplined, keeps the action in front of him, and takes good angles to plays. Instinctive, quick to diagnose, and plays smart football.

    Fires upfield defending the run and wraps up tackling. Moves well laterally and uses his hands to protect himself. Does a solid job in coverage between the numbers, tracking the ball in the air, then getting vertical to defend the pass or make the interception.

    Weaknesses: Doesn’t show a burst in his game. Not forceful on the blitz. Doesn’t cover a lot of area and lacks the speed to recover.

    Overall: Mapu was productive the past two seasons as a run defender and in pass coverage, but he has limitations. He projects as a one-gap LB with average size and marginal speed. Mapu must stand out on special teams to get out of camp this summer.”


  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at

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