New England Patriots 2020 Draftees Who Must Step up in 2021

New England Patriots 2020 rookies had it harder than most heading into last season. They were joining the team at a critical point in the franchise’s history after future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots were in a state of flux. The Patriots offense was in a dire state and, with Covid opt outs and several key players leaving in the off-season, their defense wasn’t quite in tact either. With the pandemic hampering preseason training and restricting access to the facilities, the 2020 rookie class should be forgiven if they struggled to find their feet in their first year in the NFL. Michael Onwenu was the only rookie who really made a solid impression last season. Other players will need to step up in 2021 in order for the team to improve upon their 2020 season. Here are three New England Patriots 2020 draftees who need to improve in 2021.

New England Patriots 2020 Draftees Who Must Step up This Season

Josh Uche, Linebacker

Second-round draft pick Josh Uche showed potential in the few games he managed to play last season and he was able to prove problematic for opposing offensive lines. Across six games, Uche put up nine total tackles and one sack. He also recorded 17 quarterback pressures off just 99 pass rushing snaps. He proved to be athletic especially when he was given room and proved he could play both on the edge and off the ball.

However, the 22-year-old ended up on injured reserve twice in his opening year, after suffering an ankle and foot injury, which is concerning for someone coming to the league. Uche will need to work hard to make sure he can stay healthy and build on his first-year performance if he is to really make an impact in 2021. If he is successful, he could easily fill the void left behind by previous Patriots, including Kyle Van Noy or Jamie Collins.

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Kyle Dugger, Defensive Back

Kyle Dugger, the Patriots top draft pick in 2020, seemed to adjust relatively quickly for someone who was denied a full preseason training regimen in his first year in the NFL. He was drafted from second division school Lenoir-Rhyne, and there were some questions but he put in a solid first year. He proved he was incredibly athletic and versatile and he was good against the run.

His future in New England should be bright if he can build on what he learned in his first year and continue to improve heading into next season. The talented 24-year old played more than 50 percent of the snaps and had the fifth most tackles of anyone on the team. If Dugger is able to improve in his second year that would help strengthen the Patriots roster as they continue to try and find their new identity in the post Brady era.

Devin Asiasi, Tight End

Not all Patriots 2020 rookies shone as brightly as those already mentioned. Despite the tight end position being one of the most dire positions on the roster, both of the tight ends the Patriots drafted in 2020 failed to really make any impact last season. Bill Belichick drafted Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in a bid to find some stability at the position which has been lacking since Rob Gronkowski left the team after Super Bowl 53. So it goes without saying that one of them needs to step up to help the struggling offense next season.

Of the two, Devin Asiasi showed the most promise and, if he can find more stability in the off-season and work on his game, he could be the answer to New England’s tight end problem. The 23-year old out of UCLA proved he had the skills as a receiver and backed that up with some decent blocking as well and putĀ  his 6’3″ frame to good use. He also showed good development over the season as his snap count accelerated to a total of 132 over the last four games. Even if Asiasi is not the long-term solution, a decent second-year performance will be invaluable to the Patriots next season.

Hopefully these three players and others can step up in 2021 and help the Patriots improve upon their 2020 season.

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