For the second year in a row, the New England Patriots have decided to draft a former Michigan Wolverine linebacker: Josh Uche.
The New England Patriots made another trade on the second day of the NFL Draft, this time with the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots moved up 11 spots to 60th overall in exchange for the 71st overall pick. The trade also included the Pats giving up the 98th overall pick for the 129th.
In doing so, the Patriots moved back into the second round to draft linebacker Josh Uche 60th overall out of Michigan. Uche is 6’1, 245 lbs, and is a versatile and elusive linebacker. Uche has often been referred to as the prototypical Patriots player, and he adds some much needed muscle to a very thin linebacker group.
It appears the only drill Uche performed at the NFL Combine was the bench press, during which he put up 18 reps. Nevertheless, just from watching his game film, you can easily see that Uche is incredibly fast, can line up anywhere, and due to his great open field tackling, it doesn’t take him long to take people to the ground.
Uche has the potential to fit into New England’s defensive scheme in similar ways to Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins. Both found immediate success while playing for the Patriots, but both players are no longer with the team. Uche will be joining Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley lining up in the middle of the defense this season.
The drafting of Uche makes it two years in a row that the New England Patriots draft a former Michigan Wolverine linebacker — meaning Uche will be reunited with his former Michigan teammate, Chase Winovich.
Similar to Winovich, who had a stellar rookie season last year, Uche is going to be expected to play multiple positions, line up anywhere, and most importantly, pressure the quarterback — which is what he excels at.
A pick like this further proves that Coach Bill Belichick values the art of versatility and being a multidimensional player. The athleticism and flexibility of Uche will give Belichick plenty of options to utilize his skill set the best, almost as if Uche can be a hybrid type of player in New England’s defense.
Also, I wouldn’t be too surprised if we see the quick and powerful Uche on the kickoff and punt teams this season.
It’s worth mentioning that since 2018, Uche has the highest quarterback pressure rate among all edge rushers, per ProFootballTalk. Although he only started one season while at Michigan, in doing so, Uche finished his college career with 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. He was named to the 2019 All-Big Ten defensive second-team by the coaches.
Also, Mike Reiss of ESPN made a generous comparison of Uche to Patriots Hall of Famer Tedy Bruschi. I believe a more honest comparison of Uche should be to Van Noy. Van Noy played more freely in New England because of his athleticism and insight to the game. Uche sees the field similarly to Van Noy and already adds an upgraded weapon to the middle of the Patriots defense.
The New England Patriots added much-needed talent and depth to their defense by using three of their five picks on defenders. The Patriots will look to do more work in rounds four through seven on Day 3 of the NFL Draft on Saturday.