The New England Patriots bolstered their offensive line depth on Day 3 of the 2020 NFL Draft.
New England traded up in the sixth round to select Michigan guard Michael Onwenu at No. 182 overall. The Patriots acquired the pick from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for back-to-back picks later in the sixth round (Nos. 212 and 213).
Onwenu was a three-year starter at right guard for the Wolverines. He did not test at the NFL Scouting Combine and had his pro day canceled, but he’s known more for his strength than his athleticism, which NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein called “below average.”
Onwenu’s most notable trait, though, is his size. He’s significantly heavier than most Patriots guards, measuring in at 6-foot-3, 344 pounds at the combine after reportedly weighing upward of 370 earlier in his college career. The 22-year-old was the heaviest guard/center in Indianapolis and the second-heaviest offensive lineman behind Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton (364 pounds).
New England’s interior O-linemen typically weigh between 300 and 310 pounds, with last year’s starting guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason checking in at 308 and 310, respectively. (Reserve guard Jermaine Eluemunor, who is listed at 335 pounds, is a rare exception to that rule.)
The Patriots reportedly hosted Onwenu for a pre-draft visit before the NFL’s COVID-19 restrictions went into effect.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler complimented Onwenu’s power and movement ability in his 2020 NFL Draft Guide:
“After tipping the scale over 370 pounds in Ann Arbor, he made a concerted effort to change his diet and transform his body, which directly affected his movements and uptick in energy on the practice field. Despite the excessive weight, Onwenu doesn?t play sloppy with smooth movements and natural power, driving defenders from the spot with his physical grip. He will get top heavy at times and needs to develop his sustain skills once he connects. Overall, Onwenu might require an adjustment period in the NFL to improve his timing and hand placement, but his mauling strength and body control make him a draft-and-develop candidate for a power-based scheme.”
Onwenu allowed just two sacks in 1,198 collegiate pass-blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, and none in 2019.
The Patriots had a need for interior depth after losing top guard/center backup Ted Karras to the Miami Dolphins in free agency. Thuney’s fate also remains unclear, as New England can clear $14.78 million in salary cap space by trading the second-team All-Pro.
The chance of a Thuney trade decreased dramatically following Day 2 of the draft, however.