UCLA football’s Jon Gaines II selected by Cardinals; Patriots draft Atonio Mafi
Offensive guard Atonio Mafi sets up in his stance before a play. Mafi and fellow former UCLA football offensive guard Jon Gaines II were selected in the fifth and fourth rounds, respectively, of the 2023 NFL Draft on Saturday. (Megan Cai/Assistant Photo editor)
By Francis Moon
April 29, 2023 4:31 p.m.
This post was updated April 30 at 8:56 p.m.
Two members of the nation’s top-ranked offensive line last season have found themselves a new home.
The Arizona Cardinals selected former UCLA football offensive guard Jon Gaines II as the No. 122 overall pick in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft on Saturday morning, while fellow former offensive guard Atonio Mafi was selected by the New England Patriots as the No. 144 pick in the fifth round. The pair represented an integral piece of a rushing offense that produced over 200 rushing yards per game for three consecutive seasons with the country’s highest yards per rush in 2022.
Gaines was the second Bruin to be selected in the draft after former running back Zach Charbonnet came off the board in the second round, while Mafi was grabbed just four picks after formerquarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. As the most athletic offensive lineman at the combine, Gaines became a late riser in the draft and is the second offensive lineman to be taken by the Cardinals this week after they selected Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. with the sixth overall pick.
The starter at right guard for all 13 of the Bruins’ games last season while also seeing time at center and tackle in past years, Gaines projects as a potential day-one starter for a team with low expectations next season, especially with quarterback Kyler Murray set to miss the beginning of the season.
After former Bruin offensive lineman Sean Rhyan was chosen with the No. 92 pick in the third round in last year’s draft, Gaines became the second UCLA offensive lineman in a row to be selected in the first five rounds. In the 10 years prior to 2022, the program had just one player at that position taken in that range.
Mafi was added to the list shortly after, as the New England Patriots selected the former defensive lineman, who transitioned to the offensive side of the ball only three seasons ago.
The five-year Bruin holds a tie for the record of most games played for UCLA and was named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team in 2022. The third Bruin taken in the last seven years by one of the most storied franchises in the NFL, Mafi likely won’t be a starter for the Patriots as a rookie but will bolster their interior offensive line depth.
A year after seeing six Bruins hear their names called, four more joined the professional ranks this week – the highest in a two-year stretch since 2017-2018. Other players, such as defensive back Stephan Blaylock and wide receiver Jake Bobo, will likely try to join their former teammates on NFL rosters as free agents.