The New England Patriots were considering a trade down from the 131st overall pick, per Patriots All Access. As ESPN’s Mike Reiss notes, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio called some guy named “Mike” to inform them that New England was going to select a player instead of enter a trade.
Who is this mystery “Mike”? It could be Dolphins EVP of Football Operations, Mike Tannenbaum, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan, or Bengals GM Mike Brown. Regardless, the Patriots ultimately selected EDGE Deatrich Wise Jr. out of Arkansas.
Wise was regarded as one of the best pass rushers in the SEC entering 2016, with Myles Garrett and Derek Barnett considered his peers. However, injuries and limited use dropped Wise down the draft board and to the Patriots open arms.
Some still think Wise could be the steal of the draft, with Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo calling Wise the sixth-best selection from the mid-rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft.
“There will be many comparisons to former Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers, who is coming off a breakout season for the Patriots,” Palazzolo writes, “and just as we were much higher on Flowers than his fourth-round status suggested (we had a first-round grade on him in the 2015 draft), we also feel that Wise came off the board later than expected. He fits the classic mold of a New England edge rusher, with good length and technique; it showed on the field to the tune of 15 sacks, 23 QB hits, and 44 hurries on 524 rushes, just over a season’s worth of action. Wise has the frame to kick inside to rush the passer, so look for him to be used immediately all over the defensive front for the Patriots.”
Like Wise, Flowers fell to the Patriots in the fourth round and, like Wise, PFF immediately called Flowers one of “biggest draft steals,” noting that his run defense ranked the best in the nation and that his pass rush ranked second.
Wise is not as polished of a player as Flowers. Flowers racked up over twice any many tackles for loss in his college career (47.5) as Wise did (23.0). Flowers was 50% more productive at stopping the run (run stops on 12.1% of plays) than Wise (7.8%).
But with both Flowers and Wise on the same field, the Patriots will be at an advantage with two players of very similar frames and techniques allowing the defense to create more disguises.
The Patriots often relied on Flowers to kick inside to the nose tackle position on passing downs in order to keep the likes of Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard on the edge. Both Long and Sheard were capable of generating pressure, but they were unable to bring down the quarterback.
Wise can play the nose, as Palazzolo suggests, allowing Flowers to replace Long or Sheard on the edge- and maybe opposite of rookie Derek Rivers- and the move will hopefully improve the Patriots pass rush in obvious passing situations.
Pro Football Focus was right about the last Arkansas pass rusher to go to the Patriots. We’ll have to see if they’re right again.