Following the 2020 NFL Draft, a handful of Patriots rookies were identified as likely candidates to be Day 1 impact players in New England.
Second-round selection Josh Uche was expected to help fill the voids at linebacker left via free agency and opt outs. Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene were primed to play given the Patriots’ below-average depth at tight end. There also was a vacancy ripe for the taking for fifth-round kicker Justin Rohrwasser.
None of those players have been true difference-makers in Foxboro, at least not yet anyway. Instead, the clear-cut rookie standout has been Mike Onwenu, an unheralded offensive lineman taken in the sixth round. Onwenu already has shined in multiple roles for the Patriots, and those efforts landed him the 13th spot on Daniel Jeremiah’s midseason top 25 rookie power rankings.
“Onwenu has been a valuable piece for the Patriots’ offense,” Jeremiah wrote for NFL.com. “He’s excelled at both guard spots and proven capable of holding up at tackle, too. He’s very firm in pass protection and creates movement in the run game.”
The Patriots certainly must feel fortunate for how quickly Onwenu has taken to the NFL level. Both David Andrews and Joe Thuney are on expiring contracts, so Onwenu’s importance to New England could increase significantly over the offseason.