Thanks to getting a significant amount of playing time as a rookie, defensive end Chase Winovich is poised for a big second year with the Patriots.
Perhaps no 2019 New England Patriots draft pick has inspired greater cause for optimism this upcoming season than defensive end Chase Winovich.
Winovich was the third player taken by Bill Belichick a little more than a year ago, after wide receiver N’Keal Harry (first round) and cornerback Joejuan Williams (second round). He was the first of a trio of Patriots picks in the third round, alongside running back Damien Harris and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste.
Considering that Harris essentially took a redshirt year (he barely played last season) and Cajuste missed the season entirely due to offseason surgery, Winovich easily “won” the contest amongst his fellow third-round picks to see who made the biggest impact in 2019 … simply by showing up and playing every week.
And despite Williams getting drafted a round above him and Harry going a full two rounds above him, Winovich still saw more playing time than either of those names. Though to be fair, Harry missed the first half of the season after landing on IR during the preseason, and Williams was buried on the depth chart behind the best group of veteran cornerbacks in the league.
Still, it’s not every day a rookie makes a major impact in his first season with the Belichick-era Patriots — and that’s exactly what “Wino” did in 2019.
Playing on both defense and special teams, Winovich was a staple on the field for Patriots games last year — easily spotted thanks to his long, flowing, platinum-blonde hair streaming out from behind his helmet as he hustled all over the field.
Moreover, longtime Pats fans will recognize his jersey number (No. 50) as being the same one previously worn by legendary defensive end/outside linebacker Mike Vrabel — currently the head coach of the Titans — when he was a player in New England back in the early 2000s.
Winovich had 26 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery touchdown — all as 24-year-old true rookie last year.
Best-case scenario projection for 2020
If he continues his momentum — and there’s no reason to think he shouldn’t — he could become one of the more recognizable players in the NFL next season.
Winovich is already widely known in at least seven states — the six New England ones and then Michigan, thanks to his starring turn for the Wolverines.
If he can match or beat his rookie production in his “sophomore” season, he should turn some heads and start getting recognition in the other 43 states as well.
Helping his cause is the fact that Kyle Van Noy now plays on the Dolphins and Jamie Collins now plays on the Lions. Between them, they accounted for 13.5 of New England’s 47 total sacks last year — or just about a third of them.
Those sacks have to go to someone else in 2020. In a best-case scenario for Winovich, they go to him.
Worst-case scenario projection for 2020
Winovich isn’t the only talented pass-rushing specialist coming straight from Ann Arbor to Foxborough these days.
Just a year after he was taken in the third round by the Patriots, Belichick drafted Josh Uche in the second round. Like Winovich, Uche was a sackmaster for the Wolverines — and he arguably comes to New England with a higher pedigree and potential.
Should Winovich flounder or flop in 2020, it’s a safe bet that his fellow Michigan man will be there to seize the opportunity and take his reps.