Patriots: Unexpected rookie ranked top 10 in entire NFL by PFF

Patriots rookie OL Michael Onwenu has been Pro Football Focus’ sixth-highest graded player through the first five weeks of the season.

Remember how concerned fans in New England were about the Patriots’ offensive line heading into the season? To be fair, that apprehension was understandable, as right tackle Marcus Cannon opted out prior to training camp, and left tackle Isaiah Wynn and center David Andrews were returning from serious injuries and medical scares and combined to play just four games in 2019.

Not to mention that Andrews’ replacement, Ted Karras, who started 15 games at center and played 90% of the offensive snaps last season, signed with the Dolphins in free agency.

Despite having a ton of moving parts, however, those concerns have promptly been quelled through the first five weeks of 2020 as the Patriots OL has been nothing short of sensational. Care to guess who the top performer of that group has been?

That will be versatile rookie Michael Onwenu, who has remarkably earned a 92.9 grade from Pro Football Focus, which is the top marking of any rookie and the sixth-highest rated player in the entire NFL. For added context, the Michigan product is currently graded higher than studs like Justin Jefferson (84.2), Chase Claypool (82.7), Laviska Shenault (79.8) and James Robinson (75.5).

Onwenu’s versatility for a rookie lineman is unprecedented, as he’s taken snaps at every position up front except left tackle and center. That, however, is understandable, as those are the undisputed two most important positions on the offensive line.

The 2020 sixth-round pick is a guard by trade and has not been penalized a single time through his first four career games despite being asked to play positions he never lined up at with the Wolverines. On top of that, he’s played 70% of the Patriots offensive snaps (196) and has somehow yet to concede a sack.

Onwenu’s unforeseen rise in Year 1 has been a delight to watch unfold, but not in a million years would we have guessed him to be PFF’s highest-graded rookie through four weeks since Broncos stud Von Miller earned a 91.2 marking back in 2011.

It would be foolish to expect Onwenu to keep up this torrid pace for the entire season, but his emergence has no doubt proven that he’ll be a key cog on the Patriots offensive line for years to come. Head coach Bill Belichick has made a living striking gold in the late rounds of drafts, and fans can go right ahead and add the former Wolverine to that laundry list.