One spring after the arrival of Chase Winovich, the New England Patriots returned to the Michigan defensive front in the 2020 NFL draft.
New England traded up to No. 60 overall at the end of the second round for Josh Uche, sending No. 71 and No. 98 overall to the Baltimore Ravens for a Saturday pick and what would become the former Wolverines outside linebacker on Friday night.
Here are three factors to take into the Uche exchange.
Though not a starter until his final season in Ann Arbor, Uche tallied a team-high seven sacks as a redshirt sophomore and followed with a team-high 8.5 sacks as a redshirt junior.
Uche would earn second-team All-Big Ten recognition and was named Michigan’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. He did so while tacking on 13 hits and 25 hurries versus opposing quarterbacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
Exits in free agency
New England’s linebacker room exited the month of March without versatile starters in Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy. Those two free-agent exits alone left the defense without 1,627 snaps, 137 tackles, 13.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and three interceptions from last campaign.
Uche’s background both off the edge and off the ball could fill multiple holes. He collected 35 tackles, including 11.5 for loss, with a pair of forced fumbles and pass deflections this past fall.
Uche’s game features burst and bend in a 6-foot-1, 245-pound frame. And while he did not test at the NFL Scouting Combine, the Senior Bowl participant’s play speed aligns with the hybrid role he projects to fill in New England.
In one respect, Uche joins the likes of Winovich, John Simon and Deatrich Wise. In another, he joins a green dot of communication in Dont’a Hightower and 2018 fifth-round draft choice Ja’Whaun Bentley out of Purdue.
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