The New England Patriots drafted EDGE Deatrich Wise Jr. out of Arkansas with the 131st overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Wise is a 6’5, 275 pound edge defender with terrible long distance speed (4.92s 40 yard dash), but impressive quickness (7.07s three cone) and explosion (10’4 broad jump).
Wise is the second edge defender the Patriots have added this draft, joining third round EDGE Derek Rivers out of Youngstown State. The Patriots now have a deep roster on the edge, and there are plenty of questions to ask.
Here are my instant observations.
Patriots double-dip for second time in three years
The Patriots followed their Super Bowl XLIX victory by selecting Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers in the third and fourth rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft. Two years later, the Patriots have followed their Super Bowl LI victory by selecting Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise Jr. in the third and round rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Patriots double-dipped in 2015 because Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich couldn’t be expected to play 100% of the defensive snaps, as Jones’ injury in 2014 led to the mid-season acquisition of Akeem Ayers. The 2015 squad also added Jabaal Sheard to the edge rotation.
This year, the Patriots have Trey Flowers instead of Jones, and Ninkovich is still a part of the plans. Kony Ealy has replaced Sheard as the “affordable, young veteran.” Rivers and Wise are going to jockey for playing time because it’s tough to have five edge defenders on the roster and have all of them contribute.
Could this mean a position change for Rob Ninkovich?
Flowers, Ealy, and Wise are all edge defenders that would likely kick inside when playing in a 3-man front because they can’t play in space. Ninkovich is the type of edge defender that would drop back to linebacker; Rivers could fall into the same category as Ninkovich.
But Ninkovich tested the waters at linebacker in 2016 and the Patriots could be full on the defensive line with Flowers, Ealy, Rivers, and Wise. What is Ninkovich makes the full-time transition to strongside linebacker?
The Patriots have a few distinct roles in their defensive front:
Nose tackle: Alan Branch, Vincent Valentine. The NT eats all the space in the middle of the defense.
Defensive tackle: Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy. The DT cleans up on the interior, when possible.
Inside edge: Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise Jr.. The inside edge plays the 4- or 5-technique against the offensive tackle, with the strongside linebacker shadowing outside.
Outside edge: Kony Ealy, Derek Rivers. Standard 4-3 defensive end.
Strongside linebacker: Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin. Covers the inside edge to create a five-man defensive front against the run, spies running back.
Off the ball linebacker: Dont’a Hightower, Elandon Roberts. Covers the middle, blitzes, stuffs the run.
Ninkovich could play the same role as Van Noy and McClellin in 2017.
Wise-Flowers dynamic reminds of McCourty-Ryan-Harmon
Wise followed in the footsteps of Flowers at Arkansas, much like how Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan followed Devin McCourty at Rutgers. Head coach Bill Belichick puts a premium on adding players that are good culture fits into the program, so it helps to have a mentor already in the system.
Well, Ryan and Harmon leaned on McCourty over the past four years and they were tremendously successful. Here’s what Wise has to say about Flowers:
I wrote this about Deatrich Wise's relationship with Trey Flowers at the combine: pic.twitter.com/qx40DEEkq9— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) April 29, 2017
Wise calls Flowers “an older brother” and “a mentor” and mentioned that the two still talked over the years. Hopefully Wise can be as successful as Flowers has been, early in his career.