The New England Patriots spent their first three picks in the 2020 NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball. They notably nabbed Division II safety Kyle Dugger with their first pick in the draft at No. 37 overall, but they made another second-round pick as well.
With only a handful of picks left in Round 2, the Patriots traded up to select Michigan edge rusher Josh Uche. The hybrid linebacker/defensive end should have a chance to make an impact on the team's defense right away and will join 2019 third-round pick Chase Winovich, another Michigan man, on the edge.
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It wasn't a surprise to see the Patriots move up in the draft. After all, they had an abundance of picks on Days 2 and 3 of the 2020 NFL Draft. But there was a specific reason that the team decided to move up to the 60th pick to grab Uche, according to Andrew Callahan of The Boston Herald.
According to a league source, had the Patriots failed to trade up for Uche, he would have been taken by one of the teams that owned the next three picks after 60th overall; the Titans, Packers or Chiefs. Instead, late in the second round, the Pats shipped the 71st and 89th picks to Baltimore in exchange for No. 60 and a fourth-rounder.
That certainly explains why the Patriots felt the need to move up 11 spots. All of the three teams mentioned would've made sense as landing spots for Uche.
The Titans have a need for a potential long-term starter at rush linebacker across from former Boston College product Harold Landry. They signed Vic Beasley this offseason, but he has regressed since a 15.5-sack All-Pro campaign in 2016.
As for the Chiefs, Andy Reid loves to bolster the trenches and they still need a replacement for Justin Houston who was cut last offseason. The Chiefs have former Michigan pass rusher Frank Clark as their big name on the edge and spent a fifth-round pick on another Michigan edge player, Michael Danna. So, it stands to reason that they could've targeted Uche in the second round had he been available.
And finally, the Packers could've made sense for Uche as well. Preston and Za'Darius Smith are two solid starters, but the team doesn't have a lot of quality depth behind them after the departure of Kyler Fackrell in free agency. They spent a first-round pick in 2019 on Michigan's Rashan Gary -- another edge player -- so maybe they got a good look at Uche while scouting Gary and liked what they saw.
Either way, the point is moot since the Patriots traded up to get Uche. And from the description of Uche provided by his former defensive coordinator at Michigan, Don Brown, it sounds like he'll fit in very well with the Patriots.
"He’s a football junkie. He wanted to know everything he could possibly know," Brown said, per Callahan. "Our strength coach did a really good job developing his hand quickness, and really, I thought was instrumental in helping us out. But Josh, he’ll do exactly what you tell him to do … and you know, some pass rushers they think they can win it all. He’ll do exactly what he’s supposed to do."
So basically, Uche is athletic, absorbs a lot of information, and likes to do his job. Maybe that's why Bill Belichick fell in love with him and felt comfortable moving up to acquire his services.
During his final season at Michigan, Uche logged 33 tackles and 7.5 sacks for the Wolverines. The Patriots will hope that he can make an immediate impact as a pass rusher in a rotational capacity, much like Winovich did as a rookie in 2019 (26 tackles, 5.5 sacks).