Massive Rookie Called Patriots’ Biggest Draft-Day Steal

Getty Michael Onwenu

The New England Patriots have obviously had some great success with drafting players from Michigan. The team took Tom Brady from their 20 years ago, and have had a few more success stories from the school. Their latest pickup from the program is being called the team’s biggest draft-day steal.

Luke Easterling of USA Today published a list of every team’s biggest draft steal, and Michigan’s Michael Onwenu got the nod for the Patriots.

At 6’3″ and upwards of 350 pounds, Onwenu could have a strong future as a starting guard on the Patriots’ offensive line. The Patriots selected Onwenu in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, but we could look back on this in five years and realize he has become one of the better offensive linemen taken in this class.

Onwenu helped to anchor another strong front in Ann Arbor in 2019, and while his lack of elite quickness probably explains his drop to the sixth round, his power has some folks excited.

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Onwenu isn’t a Day-1 Starter, But He Has Upside

Pro Football Focus cautions Patriots fans to temper their expectations for Onwenu early on, but points to his stout pass protection skills as a sign of a positive foundation.

He’s not likely to see the field soon, but the Patriots made a great pick in Round 6 when they were able to get interior offensive lineman Michael Onwenu, our 128th-ranked prospect. At 6-foot-3, 350 pounds, Onwenu may not be able to match NFL quicks, but he can match NFL power. Very rarely did someone go through him in pass protection — he allowed only 13 pressures over the last two seasons and posted top-15 pass-blocking grades among guards each season.

Insurance for Joe Thuney’s Exit

The most pressing player-personnel issue currently on the Patriots’ plate is what they are going to do with guard Joe Thuney for the upcoming season and beyond. Thuney has the franchise tag placed on him, but in doing so, the Patriots put themselves in a tough situation from a salary cap perspective.

There is a chance Thuney will play out this season for the guaranteed salary of close to $15 million, and then become a free agent going into next season where he could collect a bigger deal with more security.

There’s also a chance Thuney could sign an extension with the Patriots which would alleviate some of the financial pressure for the upcoming campaign. There’s also a chance the Patriots trade Thuney to lift the weight on their sparse cap space.

In either case, Thuney may not be long for a Patriots uniform. If he does move on, the Patriots may already have his successor on the roster in Onwenu, and he’d have an entire season to work toward being prepared to move into a bigger role.

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