Patriots 2020 NFL Draft: EDGE Josh Uche can thrive right away
By Peter Panacy
The New England Patriots needed pass-rushing help in the 2020 NFL Draft, and grabbing Michigan EDGE Josh Uche lands a player who can make an immediate impact.
It was common in mocks to see the New England Patriots target an edge rusher with their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
That didn’t happen, of course, as head coach Bill Belichick and Co. elected to trade down from No. 23 overall, then they grabbed Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Duggar with the team’s first overall pick at No. 37 overall.
That’s fine. But one could make the argument the Pats’ second pick of the draft, Michigan EDGE Josh Uche at No. 60 overall, was the bigger splash. And a bargain, too. Many a draft big board out there had Uche tabbed as an early second-round pick.
But the selection of Uche, who netted 14.5 sacks with the Wolverines the past two seasons, should be considered an even better selection based on the situation he’s entering.
Last year, New England relied heavily on a combination of stunts and blitzes to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Paired with an elite secondary, this formula worked exceptionally well. And it wouldn’t be surprising if the Patriots continue this kind of approach, although Uche is plenty polished enough as a natural one-on-one pass-rusher.
Looking at the film, it’s not hard to see why:
It would be one thing if Uche was purely a pass-rusher and nothing else. But he’s also good enough in coverage, and it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see Belichick use him in a variety of roles.
This is what Pro Football Focus predicted would happen for the first-year EDGE/linebacker:
"Uche split time as an edge rusher and an off-ball linebacker and would move all over the formation to cause the maximum amount of havoc. He is undersized but a dominant pass-rusher with the best pass-rush win rate in the draft class. The New England Patriots are probably the best franchise in football at putting defensive players in the best position to be successful, tailoring roles to what players do well and minimizing their exposure to things they do not. They have also got an extensive track record juggling the crossover between pass-rushers and off-ball linebacker."
In this regard, Uche is going to be deployed as a defensive weapon, dropping back into mid-range coverage, while also serving as a prolific pass-rusher despite his smallish 6-foot-1, 245-pound frame.
What makes a player like Uche more promising is the idea New England will continue its blitzing techniques, benefited by the addition of Duggar within the secondary to hold up that end of the coverage assignments.
Simply put, Uche allows the Pats to disguise what the defensive intentions truly are, and only a handful of prospects from the 2020 NFL Draft could afford a defense the luxury of being able to do that.
As a result, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Uche make some serious strides his rookie season in a situation where he’s allowed to put his talents to use right away.