Notre Dame LB Julian Okwara could make a lot of sense for the Patriots
The New England Patriots have arguably built the greatest dynasty in NFL history, in large part due to their ability to reload every off-season via the draft and free agency. With that being said, Notre Dame linebacker Julian Okwara could make a lot of sense for the Patriots in the 2020 NFL Draft.
New England currently boasts an impressive 10-1 record and is projected to have the 31st overall pick at the time of writing. Drafting at the end of the first round isn’t anything new for Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
As for Okwara, he is listed as a defensive lineman on Notre Dame’s roster, but he’s essentially an outside linebacker. The senior pass-rusher has accumulated 15.5 sacks, 24 tackles for loss, two interceptions, and four fumbles in four years of play for the Fighting Irish.
Okwara’s best season came in 2018 when he tallied 39 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble. The talented pass rusher was on his way to having another productive campaign in 2019 with seven tackles for loss, five sacks, and two forced fumbles.
Unfortunately, the senior edge defender suffered a fractured fibula in November. Therefore, his draft stock could take a slight hit as teams may avoid him as he recovers from an injury.
While teams are skeptical of his injury, the Patriots could bring him in and allow him to recover. With Okwara standing at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, he is a hybrid linebacker who can play off the edge or with his hand on the ground.
Provided that, Okwara would be a perfect fit in Belichick’s hybrid defensive scheme. When watching the Patriots, they tend to move around their linebackers on the field.
Some plays you’ll see Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy on the outside. On other plays, they’ll have Jamie Collins sprinting off the edge (or vice versa). Behind Hightower, Van Noy, and Collins, Elandon Roberts, Chase Winovich, and Ja’Whaun Bentley also rotate in at linebacker.
No matter who is at linebacker, New England loves to rotate their crew to keep the opposing offense guessing. It’s working. The Patriots have the No. 1 defense in the NFL through the first 12 weeks of the season.
In today’s style of football, you can never have enough pass rushers or linebackers. The addition of Okwara could provide a future starter at outside linebacker for the Patriots.
At the same time, it would give Belichick a talented edge defender for years to come. Selecting an injured but productive linebacker and turning him into a Pro Bowler would be typical for the Patriots.