Two a New England Patriots’ 2020 draft class has had some hits and misses so far, but the team seemingly hit the jackpot twice. In Round 2, it selected do-it-all safety Kyle Dugger — a potential cornerstone of the secondary for years to come. Four rounds later, Michael Onwenu was added to the equation.
Starting all 16 games as a rookie, he moved between positions and showed his ability to perform at a high level on both the inside and the outside of the line. He started 2021 as New England’s left guard before again kicking out to right tackle to help replace an injured Trent Brown.
While Onwenu has since lost his starting position to Brown and fellow guard Ted Karras, his upside in the system cannot be denied. It is also why ESPN’s Ben Linsey recently named the 23-year-old as the best interior offensive lineman to come out of the 2020 draft:
Interior offensive line: Mike Onwenu, New England Patriots
Onwenu has played more snaps at tackle (892) than he has at guard (549) through his first 27 career games. He’s also not currently in the Patriots’ starting lineup, as Onwenu instead has operated as the do-it-all sixth offensive lineman over the past several weeks.
Even so, the sixth-round pick has been PFF’s highest-graded guard from last year’s draft class in both 2020 and 2021. One big reason is his success as a run blocker, particularly in gap schemes. Onwenu’s 85.9 run-blocking grade when lined up at guard ranks sixth among players with 500-plus snaps at the position since the start of 2020.
While it remains to be seen what the future holds for Onwenu, him earning a starting spot again would not be a surprise at all. There appear to be two realistic scenarios if the Patriots’ current starting five stay healthy: he either takes over for Ted Karras again down the stretch this year or next offseason — when Karras will be an unrestricted free agent — or he becomes the long-term answer at right tackle if Trent Brown leaves in free agency again.
No matter what happens, the Patriots appear to have found a gem with the 182nd selection last year.