The New England Patriots have found a good number of gems in the NFL Draft during the Bill Belichick era. Michigan’s Josh Uche might be the latest example.
The uber-athletic linebacker is considered a bit shorter than ideal for an NFL linebacker, but the speed, strength, and burst he showed in college suggests he’s the kind of player who could be an exception to the size rule.
Take a look at every sack he had in 2019 with the Michigan Wolverines:
Here’s every Josh Uche sack from last season. pic.twitter.com/X6ZmrrwaWw
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) May 5, 2020
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Uche is Signed, Sealed and Delivered
The promising young defensive player taken in the second round of last month’s NFL Draft was one of the first of the higher picks to ink a deal with their new team. On May 6, Uche signed his rookie deal for four years, and it is worth $5.38 million.
With Uche joining former college teammate Chase Winovich in the Patriots’ front seven, there is a chance we’ll see the Wolverine connection make some noise this season.
Is Uche the Next Kyle Van Noy or Even More?
When considering which defensive player Uche is most likely to replace, a few names come to mind, but most often, you hear Kyle Van Noy. Taylor Kyles and Bernd Buchmasser of Pat’s Pulpit said:
Based on his usage in college and his skillset, the second-round pick projects to help the team fill the role previously held by Van Noy: he should see considerable snaps early on as a do-it-all edge defender with considerable upside both as a pass rusher and a rangy drop-back coverage linebacker.
Van Noy was so valuable to the Patriots, and such a significant loss this offseason when he chose to sign with the Miami Dolphins because of his ability to be effective against the run, in pass coverage, and as a pass rusher.
Uche appears to have similar qualities, although the early indication is that his best skill might be his ability to rush the passer. Uche shows the kind of explosive leverage from a short pass rusher that we saw from Elvis Dumervil, and even former Patriot and Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison.
Austin Meek of the Athletic seems to project Uche’s floor as something that sounds similar to the Seattle Seahawks’ Bruce Irvin. Meeks’ ceiling for Uche is far more exciting. It sounds a bit like former Chicago Bears’ outside linebacker Lance Briggs.
“The riddle for NFL teams is how to project a player who measures 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds and whose best trait is his pass-rush ability. At worst, Uche looks like a package player who can be a weapon on third down. At best, he could be an every-down linebacker whose strength and speed allow him to roam sideline to sideline. His potential is in the eye of the beholder, but Uche is confident he can be more than a situational player.”
Quite honestly, if Meeks is right on either extreme or if Uche falls somewhere in between the ceiling and the floor, it looks like a strong selection by the Patriots.
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