The New England Patriots uncovered a diamond in the rough when they selected offensive lineman Michael Onwenu in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Not only did the Michigan product make a sizable impact during his rookie season, Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson also on Thursday identified Onwenu as the Patriots’ “most underrated player” ahead of the 2021 campaign.
The Pro Football Focus piece pinpointed the “most underrated player” for all 32 NFL teams, and Onwenu earned the nod for New England after a 2020 in which he was the Patriots’ third-highest-graded player on PFF. Only running back Damien Harris and guard Shaq Mason graded higher.
Here’s what Monson wrote about Onwenu:
Listed as a guard, even though most of his play in his rookie year came at right tackle, Onwenu was a phenomenal first-year performer for the Patriots regardless of position. In a world where the league appreciated offensive line play as much as the play from “skill positions,” Onwenu would have had a strong case for rookie of the year after allowing just 11 total pressures all season.
The Patriots have one of the strongest offensive lines in the NFL. The unit is deep, talented and versatile, with Onwenu basically coming out of nowhere last season to become a valuable contributor.
It’s unclear who will be the Patriots’ starting quarterback this season — veteran Cam Newton or rookie Mac Jones — but New England’s work in the trenches, on both sides of the ball, could go a long way toward determining the team’s success in 2021.