The Patriots have taken another interior offensive lineman on Day 3 of the NFL Draft, and this one is a fascinating developmental project.
With pick No. 144, New England selected Atonio Mafi, a guard from UCLA. Mafi attended Tom Brady’s high school — Junipero Serra in San Mateo — and originally planned to play professional rugby in Tonga after graduation, but was lured to UCLA to play football instead.
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Mafi began his collegiate career playing defensive line, and at 6-foot-3, his weight peaked at 411 pounds before he flipped to the offensive side of the ball and slimmed down to 338 pounds, according to The Athletic’s draft whiz Dane Brugler.
“He made incremental improvements with each game the last two seasons at guard,” Brugler writes. “Mafi has a rugby background with better-than-expected foot quickness, which allows him to fit his targets on the move with his length and body control. He relied on his stout base and strong hands/core to help mask his lack of refinement, both fundamentally and instinctually in college.
“Overall, NFL defenders will expose the raw areas of his game, but Mafi is a promising, heavy-handed mauler who looks to create movement with in-line power. Although he might need time on a practice squad, he has the talent worth developing in a power-based scheme.”
Mafi is a cousin of former Patriots tight end Devin Asiasi, and he participated in the East-West Shrine Bowl, so New England’s coaching staff got a hands-on look at him this offseason.