The New England Patriots needed an edge defender and linebacker in the 2020 NFL Draft. They got both with one second-round pick when they traded up to draft Michigan’s Josh Uche. That’s good business.
Uche earned Pro Football Focus’ “most versatile” superlative among edge defenders. He’s 6-foot-1, 245 pounds and split hit time between edge defender and off-the-ball linebacker. He’s a prototypical Patriots defender in the mold of a Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich and Mike Vrabel for his ability to play on and off the line of scrimmage.
He is slightly undersized to be an NFL edge defender at 6-foot-1, but makes up for it with his almost 34-inch arms. Uche registered 46 pressures in just 206 pass-rush snaps last season, per PFF. He was PFF’s fourth most productive pass rusher in 2019 based on their pass-rush productivity metric.
Uche had 19 pressures on 97 pass-rush snaps in a part-time role in 2018 when he was playing behind current Patriots outside linebacker Chase Winovich and 2019 Green Bay Packers first-round pick Rashan Gary. Uche also had 15 run stops on 187 run defense snaps in 2019.
The Michigan defender didn’t test at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he showed off freaky athleticism in college. He was an accomplished edge rusher and inside blitzer with the Wolverines.
The Patriots have Winovich, John Simon and Deatrich Wise, among others, on their edge defender depth chart. They lost Van Noy, Collins and Elandon Roberts at linebacker in free agency, leaving Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley at the position. Uche, similar to Van Noy and Collins, should eventually play a hybrid role in the Patriots’ defense. He might start his pro career as more of a situational pass rusher as Winovich did as a rookie in 2019.
Uche is an ideal pick for the Patriots in that he can potentially contribute as both a linebacker and edge defender. Picking Uche should allow the Patriots to fill other needs on their roster with later picks, of which they still have two in the third round and three in the fourth round.
The Patriots gave up the 71st and 98th overall picks in a trade with the Ravens to get the 60th and 129th overall picks. The Patriots still have 13 overall picks in the draft, but they had to move down from No. 98 overall to 129 to move up 11 picks back into the second round. The trade lines up perfectly on the trade value chart.
The Patriots grabbed Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger with their first second-round pick. They pick next at 87th overall in the third round of the 2020 draft.