The 2018 NFL Draft is almost here, and everyone in the football world is eagerly anticipating the latest influx of young talent. In the spirit of the draft, it’s a good time to take a look back at how last years rookies performed for the New England Patriots. Let’s begin this review with the 2017 squads rookie of the year, Deatrich Wise Jr.
Reviewing Deatrich Wise Jr.’s Rookie Season With the New England Patriots
New England selected Wise in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft and expected him to spend most of his rookie year learning how to be a pro. However, that plan turned out to be short-lived. Before the season even started, the 2017 Patriots edge depth was tested. Longtime edge defender Rob Ninkovich retired, fellow rookie Derek Rivers tore his ACL in the preseason, and off-season acquisition Kony Ealy didn’t even make the roster.
Because of all this turnover, Wise went from being a rookie backup to being second on the team’s edge depth chart. The pressure was on, and Wise was learning on the job. Asking any fourth-round pick to play a large sum of snaps is difficult, and that’s especially true for a defensive lineman. NFL tackles are far bigger and stronger than in college, and rookies typically need a year to build up the muscle to compete.
Nonetheless, Wise still managed to be a productive player. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he was certainly everything New England could have hoped for out of a fourth-round pick. If he’s able to build on his successful rookie year, the Patriots could have found another late-round steal.
Wise immediately stepped onto the field and established himself as one of the teams best pass rushers. While the team struggled to consistently get to the quarterback, Wise managed to provide his fair share of pressure. Wise played in all 16 regular season games, recording five sacks and 26 tackles.
While his numbers didn’t light up the stat sheet, he was still one of the team’s more consistent pass rushers. His five sacks were third on the team, behind Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy. Additionally, his five sacks were the third most out of all rookies. Not bad for the 131st overall selection.
His ability to generate pressure should only improve going forward. Having another full off-season to hone his skills should make him even more dangerous for 2018. Factor in the return of Dont’a Hightower and Rivers, and the Patriots pass rush should be much improved in 2018.
While Wise showed potential as a pass rusher, he had trouble against the run. The Patriots struggled all season defending outside runs, and the defensive ends were a big reason for that. Nobody outside of Flowers was capable of setting the edge, and opposing running backs went wild running off tackle. New England finished the year with the second-worst run defense, per Pro Football Focus.
While Wise wasn’t as bad a run defender as Cassius Marsh, he wasn’t great. As mentioned earlier, rookie linemen typically need a year to bulk up to face NFL competition. Since Wise didn’t have that year, he basically spent all of 2017 getting pushed around by bigger, stronger linemen. His speed and agility allowed him to rush the passer, but he lacked the strength to stop the run.
Pro Football Focus gave Wise a 51.2 season ranking, coming in as the 95th best edge defender. While he wasn’t THAT bad, it was clearly his struggles against the run which contributed to this low grade. If Wise is to truly become an all-around player, he’ll need to add muscle this off-season. If he can put on weight without sacrificing speed, he has the chance to become a solid fixture on the defensive line for years to come.
Last Word on Deatrich Wise
Overall, 2017 was a promising rookie campaign for the former Arkansas product. Despite being a fourth-round pick, Wise was thrown into the fire and mostly succeeded. He certainly did all that could be expected out of him, based on the circumstances. Wise played in every possible game and showed the potential to be, at the very least, a great situational pass rusher.
However, if he improves against the run, he can be so much more. If Wise can add strength and be a three-down player, then he and Flowers could combine to be the next Chandler Jones and Ninkovich.
Expect a big improvement from Wise in his sophomore year. He was asked to do more than he was capable of as a rookie. While the extra responsibilities overwhelmed him at times, it should only help in the long run. He’s further along in his development than he otherwise would be, and should enter his sophomore campaign ready to establish himself as a true NFL starter. All in all, not bad for a fourth-round pick.