The New England Patriots found plenty of success last season with the selection of Michigan edge rusher Chase Winovich in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and they are hoping for similar results with their latest draft pick from the Wolverines defense.
The Patriots traded up in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft to select Michigan linebacker Josh Uche, and the pick has received plenty of positive reviews.
One of them comes from ESPN's Matt Bowen, who recently put Uche on his list of "draft picks who landed with the perfect teams." Here's what Bowen wrote about Uche's fit in head coach Bill Belichick's defensive scheme:
In New England, Uche fits as a developing edge rusher with the athletic traits and quick-twitch ability to be used like Kyle Van Noy in Bill Belichick's defense. That's where the Patriots can scheme one-on-one pass rushes for Uche off the edge or wrap him inside on twist stunts. If the defensive linemen can occupy blockers, the door is open for Uche to scrape to the quarterback.
With Uche's ability to play off the ball, he can also drop into coverage and close with speed on underneath throws. And we know Belichick likes versatile defenders. I can't think of a better defensive scheme for Uche, who had 8.5 sacks at Michigan last season.
Winovich tallied 5.5 sacks as a rookie, and the Patriots might need a similar number from Uche in 2020 to help replace the veteran defensive players who left New England as free agents in March.
The Patriots lost three important linebackers in free agency -- Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Jamie Collins. Collins (seven) and Van Noy (6.5) were the team's sack leaders last season, and after not signing any notable free agent linebackers to replace them, the team's younger players, including Uche and 2020 third-round pick Anfernee Jennings, will need to step up.
There are reasons to be confident in Uche's ability to contribute right away, and one is his progression at Michigan. He enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2018, tallying seven sacks and eight tackles for loss as a junior. He improved last season with 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss as a senior. He also more than doubled his total tackles number from 13 in 2018 to 33 in 2019.
Uche tackles well, he effectively rushes the quarterback and his athleticism is quite impressive. There's a lot to like about his skill set, and the ideal scenario for the Patriots is Uche and Winovich forming a fearsome pass rush for many years to come.