The New England Patriots are in the middle of their 2017 training camp, which has started in late July. Over the remainder of camp, the 90 players currently under contract with the team are now in the process of fighting for spots on either the 53-man roster or the 10-man practice squad.
As we have done throughout the offseason, we will continue to take a look at the men fighting for those few select spots on the 2017 Patriots – and to find out who will and might be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we will continue the series with one of the Patriots' 2017 draft picks.
Name: Deatrich Wise Jr.
Position: Defensive edge
Jersey number: 91
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6'5, 270 lbs.
2016 review: After an impressive junior season that saw him lead his team in sacks, defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. decided to return to Arkansas for his senior year. It was a good decision as the Texas native was elevated to a starting role and had another solid campaign – albeit one that did not stand out as much as his statistically superior 2015 season.
Overall, Wise Jr. appeared in all 13 of Arkansas' games and despite breaking his hand on opening day, started the team's first eight contests. Due to another injury – a separated shoulder – his role and impact were limited down the stretch. But despite the injury issues, Wise Jr. was able to show flashes of his potential particularly as a pass rusher at the next level.
The team captain was still among the most productive defenders on the Razorbacks. Playing mostly from the five-technique defensive edge position, Wise Jr. finished the season with 49 tackles (5.5 of which for loss) as well as 3.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits. He also registered three pass breakups and a forced fumble – the majority of all his statistics being accumulated before his shoulder injury.
Following the season, Wise Jr. was invited to both the East-West Shrine Game and the scouting combine. And even though he had solid displays of his athleticism in both events, his name was not called until the final day of the 2017 NFL draft likely due to concerns about his injury history, raw athleticism and limited playing time at Arkansas.
2017 preview: When the Patriots selected Deatrich Wise Jr. in the fourth round of the draft (pick 131), they made him join a deep defensive line. Consequently, he was projected to fight for practice and playing time behind roster locks Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Derek Rivers and Rob Ninkovich. However, with the latter retiring, the door has been opened for Wise Jr. to potentially have an impact his rookie year.
And during the early stretches of training camp it certainly looked like that will be the case: The Arkansas product has seen plenty of reps with the first-team defense, manning Ninkovich's old spot on the defensive left edge and on the other side of fellow former Razorback Trey Flowers. Wise Jr. has looked comfortable in this role and has been competitive in both one-on-ones and team drills.
Of course, a lot can change over the next month but as things stand right now, the 23-year old appears to be on his way to see considerable snaps this upcoming season – primarily as an edge rusher on both defense and in the kicking game. As such, he will likely play around 40% of defensive snaps and become a core member of the defensive edge rotation opposite Flowers.