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Led By Deatrich Wise, Patriots' 2017 Class Looks To Headline Next Wave On Defense

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

You don't have to watch Deatrich Wise play in order to know why Bill Belichick loves him. There's a lot to take out of simply what he, and his coach, are saying about him.

Belichick has always been known to preach Do Your Job to all 53 guys on the Patriots roster (in this case, all 90 guys). He tends to throw around "nobody works harder" to describe players whose work ethic impresses him. On Wednesday, he dropped his latest "nobody works harder", and took the rare extra step to offer the highest of praise for both Wise and fellow 2017 draft pick Derek Rivers.

"Yeah, nobody works harder than those two guys. Nobody," Belichick said during his Wednesday press conference. "So, it’s hard to find a time that they’re not in this building. They work extremely hard on the field, off the field, their training, preparation, conditioning – you name it. Yeah, they’ve kept that pace since they got here and they’ve certainly sustained it in this year.

"They’ve made a lot of improvement and they both have upside ahead of them. So, yeah, they work very hard."

Deatrich Wise, Jr. of the New England Patriots reacts during the fourth quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 13, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Deatrich Wise, Jr. of the New England Patriots reacts during the fourth quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 13, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

In the case of Wise, that upside is starting to really shine through in the mountainous defensive end's second training camp with the Patriots. He earned plenty of starter's reps in team drills during Wednesday's practice in Foxboro, and has consistently impressed with his power and explosiveness off the edge.

Wise and Rivers are the only two Patriots draft picks remaining from an exceptionally thin 2017 class, which didn't include any picks in the first two rounds. There's a chance that the team's lack of selections at the top of the 2016 and 2017 drafts could really set the team back as far as the future. But with Wise, a fourth-round pick, it appears that Belichick unearthed a real gem.

The Patriots certainly found a big, athletic pass rusher with an outstanding work ethic. Wise told reporters after practice on Wednesday that his family instilled that in him. Like you'd expect from a prototypical Patriot, working and getting better are the most important things to him.

"This is my job, this is something that I have to do," Wise said with a smile. "If I was an accountant, I'd be at work all day. If I was a teacher, I'd be doing the lesson all day. So this is my job, this is my work, this is my craft. Something I have to do and I have to perfect."

Deatrich Wise, Jr. of the New England Patriots celebrates a sack with Elandon Roberts in the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 13, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Wise and Rivers aren't the only players left from 2017, however. The Patriots also signed defensive tackle Adam Butler and linebackers Harvey Langi and Keionta Davis as undrafted free agents. Describing the group repeatedly as "one big pot of love," Wise explained how the tight-knit group works together to make each other better.

"We came in together, Derek, Keionta, Adam, Harvey, all of those guys," Wise said. "We're real close. We help each other out. We see small things on film, we're talking about it. He helps me out, I help him out."

Langi and Davis could be long shots to make the 53-man roster, but they'll continue to get looks with a relatively shallow linebacker group returning for 2018. On the defensive line, it's more crowded. Butler could have a tough time getting snaps with Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, and Danny Shelton clearly ahead of him. But he did flash as a rookie and could still end up being a better option than the aforementioned three in pass-rushing situations.

Still, it's Wise who is doing a lot to quell the concerns that arose from the Patriots' lack of top-end draft picks in recent years. He's sure putting the work in and he's popping out on the field more and more by the day. His development, along with his 2017 brethren, will go a long way toward determining the long-term outlook for the Patriots defense.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].