Michigan football

2020 NFL Draft picks: Michael Onwenu could be Day 3 steal for Patriots

2020 NFL Draft picks: Michael Onwenu could be Day 3 steal for Patriots

The New England Patriots needed to bolster the depth and talent of their offensive line in the 2020 NFL Draft, and they addressed this roster weakness on Day 3.

The Patriots chose three offensive linemen -- Michigan guard Michael Onwenu, Wake Forest tackle Justin Herron and Memphis center Dustin Woodard -- in the sixth and seventh rounds.

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The selection of Onwenu, in particular, is drawing praise from experts. Pro Football Focus explained in its draft grades for all 32 teams why Onwenu could end up being a draft steal for New England.

He’s not likely to see the field soon, but the Patriots made a great pick in Round 6 when they were able to get interior offensive lineman Michael Onwenu, our 128th-ranked prospect. At 6-foot-3, 350 pounds, Onwenu may not be able to match NFL quicks, but he can match NFL power. Very rarely did someone go through him in pass protection — he allowed only 13 pressures over the last two seasons and posted top-15 pass-blocking grades among guards each season.

Onwenu started all 13 of Michigan's games at right guard last season, and he also earned third team All-Big 10 honors in 2018 and 2019. He contributed on special teams as well.

The Patriots offensive line was hit hard by injuries last season. Starters including left tackle Isaiah Wynn, center David Andrews and right tackle Marcus Cannon all missed games. After losing center Ted Karras in free agency, in addition to star left guard Joe Thuney's uncertain future with the team after signing the franchise tag, it made perfect sense for the Patriots to target multiple interior linemen in the draft.

Onwenu was one of the best available options for the Patriots on Day 3, and he has the potential to be another one of New England's impressive offensive linemen draft picks (Thuney, Shaq Mason, etc.) from the middle to late rounds.

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Patriots fans will love this stat on 2020 draft pick Josh Uche's pass rushing

Patriots fans will love this stat on 2020 draft pick Josh Uche's pass rushing

The New England Patriots had to rebuild their linebacker corps in the 2020 NFL Draft, and they made a strong effort to do that through the seven rounds.

The Patriots took a huge at linebacker in free agency. Veterans Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts all left as free agents in March, leaving a sizeble void at the position.

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Patriots head coach Bill Belichick drafted three linebackers over the weekend. New England selected Michigan's Josh Uche, Alabama's Anfernee Jennings and Wyoming's Cassh Maluia.

Uche, in particular, shows a lot of promise. His pressure percentage, according to Pro Football Focus, was higher than Ohio State star Chase Young, who went No. 2 overall to the Washington Redskins.

The Patriots traded up to get Uche, who played four seasons at Michigan and enjoyed his best season as a senior. He tallied career highs with 33 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 12 games for the Wolverines in 2019.

New England is hoping Uche and 2019 third-round pick Chase Winovich -- also a Michigan player -- form a productive pass-rushing duo. And the Patriots will need it, too, because their two sack leaders from last season -- Collins and Van Noy -- both left in free agency this offseason.

The Patriots had one of the league's best defenses last season, and judging by their 2020 draft picks, it looks like Belichick is hoping to win on defense in 2020. It's a smart strategy given the uncertainty at quarterback in the post-Tom Brady era.

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Patriots move up in Round 6 to grab Michigan OL Michael Onwenu

Patriots move up in Round 6 to grab Michigan OL Michael Onwenu

The New England Patriots were armed with six Day 3 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. After selecting a kicker, Justin Rohrwasser, with their first pick of the day in the fifth round, the Patriots moved up in the sixth round for an addition on offense.

It wasn't a quarterback. Or a receiver. Instead, they added an offensive lineman.

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The Patriots must've seen something that they liked in Michigan offensive guard Michael Onwenu. They sent picks 212 and 213 to the Colts to move up the board to grab the Wolverine at pick 182.

One thing stands out about Onwenu. As our own Phil Perry points out, he is a massive man.

Onwenu helped himself out a lot in the pre-draft process. He showed off his strength during the week of the East-West Shrine Game and generated good push in the practices and game. He logged 26 bench press reps at the combine and should have a chance to be a solid strength-based player.

Onwenu will compete as guard depth on the Patriots' offensive line along with last year's fourth-round pick Hjalte Froholdt and Jermaine Eluemunor, who the Patriots acquired via trade from the Baltimore Ravens on eve of the 2019 season and re-signed as a restricted free agent. And given that Joe Thuney's future in New England is up in the air, this will be an important battle to watch, as one of these players could be a starter as soon as 2021.

Onwenu is the second Michigan player the Patriots have selected so far in this draft. They took edge rusher Josh Uche after trading up to the 60th overall pick to get him.

Here's the latest reset on the players that the Patriots have selected and the picks they have remaining.