Former Michigan linebacker Josh Uche is on his way to the New England Patriots, but he already has a feel for the defense after playing the "Madden" NFL video game.
Uche was selected Friday night in the second round with the 60th overall pick. He is the second Wolverine to be picked in the three-day NFL Draft.
The Patriots traded with the Baltimore Ravens, moving up in the second round. They traded the 71st and 98th choices for picks No. 60 — used to take Uche — and No. 129. In last year's draft, New England drafted former Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich in the third round.
“I was playing with the Patriots on 'Madden' the last couple weeks, just seeing how efficiently things are run and the uniqueness of the defense," Uche told reporters after he was drafted.
Uche said he knew the Patriots were interested, but he did not know he'd be heading to New England.
“We had watched a lot of their film," Uche said. "Being at Michigan, we did some things they did on defense we implemented into our system. I would play with every team on 'Madden,' see how their defense worked. I got back to the Patriots a couple times, played their defense a couple times."
Michigan center Cesar Ruiz was a first-round selection Thursday night when New Orleans took him with the 24th pick. Michigan players have gone in the first round the last two years, with Devin Bush and Rashan Gary last year and now Ruiz.
Uche, not surprisingly, was the Wolverines' second player selected.
“He’s a typical New England pick, a guy who can play multiple positions,” ESPN's Louis Riddick said during the draft broadcast. “He has tremendous first-step quickness and power.”
It will be a reunion of sorts when Uche rejoins Winovich on defense.
“That was my boy when he was at Michigan," Uche said. "Before every game we talked about what techniques we were going to use to beat the tackles that week. It’s just great to be able to have the chemistry back. He’s just a great guy — high motor, high character, high-effort guy. He’s just a really good human being."
The draft continues on Saturday and there are a number of former Michigan players who are waiting word to find out where they will continue playing football: left guard Ben Bredeson, right guard Michael Onwenu, left tackle Jon Runyan, quarterback Shea Patterson, tight end Sean McKeon, receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, linebackers Khaleke Hudson and Jordan Glasgow, defensive end Mike Danna, safety Josh Metellus and cornerback Lavert Hill.
Uche's draft stock started to climb after he turned heads at the Senior Bowl in late January. He's a versatile player who caught the attention of scouts during the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Combine.
“I think Josh Uche will get eight to 10 sacks a year at the next level,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on a recent conference call.
During the 2019 season at Michigan, Uche had 11½ tackles for loss and 8½ sacks last season. He also had two pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
Jeremiah, leading into the draft, said Uche has considerable upside, but suggested he was underused at Michigan last season.
“He should never have come off the field,” Jeremiah said Friday night on ESPN.
During a recent conference call, Jeremiah explained how he sees Uche fitting in at the NFL level.
“He’s a unique player because he’s an undersized kind of a 3-4, he’s going to be a speed rusher coming off the edge,” he said. “He’s got a real knack and a lot of ability there. He’s somebody that on run downs, he’s going to have a little bit of an issue there. By the way, one of the side notes with him, I think he only played like 13 snaps against Ohio State, which I still have yet to get a good answer on why they didn’t use him more in that game. That’s a side note, but he’s a good player.”
Uche was asked by reporters after his selection whether he was able to do more at the Senior Bowl than at Michigan.
“The stuff I did at Michigan is a representation of myself as well,” Uche said. “The Senior Bowl, there wasn’t really any restrictions. I just got to be me and got a lot more opportunities, but I had opportunities at Michigan, too. Both allowed me to showcase who I am as a person and a player.”
Uche praised Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown and the way he develops his players. He described a complex defense with a variety of formations.
“I definitely feel prepared for what’s to come,” he said. “Coach Brown is the best in the business, and he makes sure his players get ready.”
Uche fills a void for the Patriots, who lost linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts. Van Noy and Collins were the Patriots' top two sack leaders, so finding an edge rusher was a focus for New England. Uche will join a group of linebackers/edge rushers that include Winovich, Don’ta Hightower, John Simon, Brandon Copeland, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Shilique Calhoun and Derek Rivers.