The New England Patriots traded out of the 23rd overall spot in the first round of this year’s draft, and acquired two additional picks on Day Two in the process. One of them — the 71st overall selection — was subsequently used in another trade: the Patriots bundled it together with pick No. 98 to move up to the 60th spot and select linebacker Josh Uche out of Michigan to add some versatility and pass-rushing skills to their defensive front seven.
Uche does bring an impressive skillset to the table and could become an impactful player early on in his career. That said, there are still some questions surrounding him: Will his size — he was measured at 6-foot-1, 245 pounds at the combine — be an issue? Will he be able to successfully transition to the NFL game? And how about his injury history? In order to get a clearer picture on the later question, let’s take a closer look at Uche’s medical record.
2015 (high school): Uche earned All-State honors as a senior at Christopher Columbus High School and finished his 2015 season with 14.0 sacks. That said, the three-star recruit had to deal with a foot injury during his final season according to Calvin Sykes of radio WANM 90.5 FM in Tallahassee.
2016 (freshman): Uche appeared in four games as a true freshman and registered a forced fumble along the way, but a torn meniscus that he suffered in September ended his first year in Ann Arbor. Michigan did later apply for a medical redshirt to potentially get him back for a fifth year in 2020, but Uche decided not to return and instead opted to turn pro despite a realistic chance of gaining another year of eligibility.
2017 (sophomore): Uche returned to the field for his 2017 sophomore season but again was hampered by an injury: he suffered a stress fracture in his foot that limited him throughout the campaign. All in all, he saw the field in 10 of the Wolverines’ 13 games and finished the year with one sack.
2020: Uche did not suffer any noticeable injuries during this 2018 and 2019 seasons at Michigan, but did hurt his hamstring in his first on-field showcase for the NFL: he strained his hamstring at the Senior Bowl in January. He was forced to sit out the on-field testing at the scouting combine one month later as a result, meaning that scouts only saw his size get measured as well as him registering 18 reps on the bench press.
What this means for the Patriots
Uche’s injury history may seem worrisome at first glance, but only one of his campaigns actually came to an end because of a medical issue (his 2016 freshman year in college). That being said, he does bring two red flags to the table: having suffered two foot injuries between 2015 and 2017, and hurting his hamstring at the Senior Bowl. As for his rookie season, only the hamstring might become a problem in case it does not heal properly.
All in all, however, the 21-year-old should be good to go and close to 100 percent once the Patriots begin the on-field portion of their offseason workouts. The hamstring may have impacted him during his pre-draft preparation, but it apparently did not scare off New England — just like the rest of his injury history.