When the New England Patriots drafted EDGE Deatrich Wise out of Arkansas in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, it was easy to draw a connection to the Patriots selection of 2015 fourth round EDGE Trey Flowers out of Arkansas.
Both players came from the same university and used their freakishly long to play a similar role on the defensive line.
But ask Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema about the similarities between the two players and he’ll give you a pretty short list.
“They both went to Arkansas and wore a ‘Hog on their head, but that’s about where it stops,” Bielema said via ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “They’re both tremendous players. I’ve seen them both look as special as you can be, but I think Trey is a little more of an every-down thing. He’s wired a little different, can do multiple things...I think the part they do share is that they’re very, very intelligent.”
Flowers is 6’2, 265 pounds, with 34.25” arms, while Wise is 6’5, 275 pounds, with 35.625” arms, and that marked difference in size could point towards how the Patriots envision Wise in their defense.
While Flowers is an every-down defensive end, posting the best run defense in college football during his final season, Wise is more of a pass rusher that needs to improve against the run to see a larger role on the edge of the New England defense- unless he moves finds a way to move inside.
“Deatrich, as a pure pass-rusher, is as good as I’ve been around,” Bielema explained. “I’m not saying he’s going to be J.J. Watt, but J.J. was an extremely good pass-rusher, especially in the third and fourth quarter because he knew how to use his length. Deatrich is the same. That’s why we had some success when we put him inside, against shorter personnel.”
So perhaps Flowers isn’t the best comparison for Wise. While no one can expect Wise to be the next J.J. Watt, perhaps we should consider that Wise might project into a different role in the Patriots defense.
The Patriots have been hunting for a solid interior pass rushing defensive linemen for years, with 6’2, 285-pound Dominique Easley and 6’2, 280-pound Anthony Johnson over the past three seasons. Flowers saw some time in that role in 2016, but that was partly out of necessity because Johnson wasn’t playing as well as expected.
Both Pro Football Focus and his former head coach note that Wise was at his best when on the inside, and the Patriots are the perfect team to capitalize on that strength.
“The people who really have success are the ones that understand what a player may be in college and what he can project to be at their level with the right development, with the right system, with the right plan,” Bielema told Reiss. “That’s why I think Coach [Bill] Belichick and the Patriots do so well, they [target] guys to play specific roles and let them develop into it...I think they recognize the value of what these guys are going to be.”
Like Easley, Wise is comfortable at any position on the defensive line. While Easley won with his absurd quickness, Wise uses his length to get the best of interior linemen and might be a better fit for New England’s “control the line of scrimmage” approach to the pass rush.
If Wise gains five or ten pounds of weight (his frame can certainly handle it), then he might be an ideal fit for the 20-or-so snaps per game that goes to the interior pass rusher role- and that would be the perfect way to give a rookie playing time on a stacked roster.