New England Patriots

Pierre Strong Jr. #20 of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits avoids a tackles by Braelen Oliver #14 of the Minnesota Gophers during the fourth quarter of the game on August 29, 2018 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Gophers defeated the Jackrabbits 28-21. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The Patriots continue to make their way through signing their 2022 draft class. On Thursday, fourth-round pick running back Pierre Strong officially signed his rookie deal with the team, as first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates.

Strong’s contract is a standard rookie four-year deal. It will be worth up to $4.37 million dollars, and carries a $883,358 cap hit for the 2022 season.

In 2021, Strong led the FCS level with 1,686 rushing yards, while averaging 7.03 yards per carry and finding the end zone 18 times in 15 games for South Dakota State. He also caught 22 passes for 150 yards. At the combine he had one of the best workouts of all the running backs in attendance, including a positional-best 4.37 second 40 yard dash.

As a rookie with the Patriots, Strong has the chance to play in a couple of different roles on offense given the well-rounded nature of his game. With Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson returning, there aren’t as many snaps available in the early-down back role, but pass-catching back remains a need. Strong should compete to be a part of that rotation, and with James White’s status for the season uncertain, Strong could have a chance to feature in that role with a successful summer.

After getting Strong’s deal done, just three of the Patriots’ 10 draft picks remain unsigned. They are first round pick Cole Strange, second round pick Tyquan Thornton, and fourth round pick Bailey Zappe. It’s not uncommon for rookie deals to continue to get done throughout the summer – Christian Barmore didn’t sign his last year until the week before training camp.

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What the experts are saying about Patriots draft pick RB Pierre Strong Jr

  • Last year, the Patriots hit on a running back in the fourth round when they took Rhamondre Stevenson 120th overall. Just a few picks after that spot in this year’s draft, they went running back again taking Pierre Strong Jr. of South Dakota State.

    While Strong is a different kind of player than Stevenson, can he have a similar impact? Here’s what the draft experts have to say.

  • Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

    “Instinctive running back with NFL traits and talent to find a home as a committee back or an eventual RB1. Hyper-focused vision provides him a variety of cut options and rush paths but also causes him to overthink his approach at times. Strong is more reactive than manipulative but is quite impressive with his spatial awareness and ability to slalom around bodies on a smooth, linear pathway without slowing his roll. He struggles when forced to slow his feet and make early cuts. He needs a north/south run scheme where he can square his pads and find his rhythm quickly. Strong lacks third-down value at this time, but has shown enough to believe it could be in his future.”

    (Source)

  • Drae Harris, The Draft Network

    “Pierre Strong is a good athlete with good straight-line speed while showing good body control as a runner. In the passing game, he’s shown sufficient hands out of the backfield. He is a definite threat in space when he gets the ball on a check-down. He is physical and willing in pass protection but should be better in this regard with pro coaching. In the run game, he is a slasher-type runner that has been extremely productive at the FCS level. He is a good decision-maker who has a good feel for weak-arm cutbacks on a defender. He runs with good vision and instinctive feel in traffic. He will not be a back who breaks many tackles or a back who consistently creates when nothing’s there. He also has a lot of clear air production in their system. However, he has redeeming attributes in his vision, footwork, and home-run potential. In the NFL, he would be an optimal fit in a zone run scheme, ideally as a complementary piece who could also remain on the field on passing downs.”

    (Source)

  • Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network

    Positives: Underrated running back with a complete game. Smart, instinctive, and displays outstanding vision. Patiently waits for blocks to develop, finds the running lanes, and consistently turns it upfield. Runs hard on the inside and keeps his feet moving. Picks up yardage off initial contact, drags defenders, and falls forward when tackled. Hits the hole with a burst and runs with authority. Possesses sneaky straight-line speed and displays the ability to beat defenders into the open field. Picks his way through the trash on the inside, runs with good lean, and uses blocks everywhere on the field. Possesses short-area quickness with the ability to bounce around defenders and piles. Effective receiver out of the backfield who catches the ball like a wideout. Gives effort blocking and gets results.

    Negatives: Not a quick or smooth cutback runner and loses momentum immediately after altering the angle of runs. Not a creative ball carrier who makes something out of nothing. Lacks true corner or perimeter speed.

    Analysis: Strong was highly rated by scouts coming into the season and looked good in 2021 before turning in three outstanding Shrine Bowl practices. He possesses a complete game and enough skill to be a third running back at the next level.

    (Source)

  • Brian Murphy, DraftKings

    “Undersized at 5-foot-11 and a little more than 200 pounds, Strong burned FCS defenders for years with his 4.37-40 speed. That tied for the best 40-yard dash time for any RB at the 2022 NFL Combine. He is a big-play threat as 10 of his touchdowns came from at least 50 yards out. He has serviceable pass-catching chops and good field vision. He doesn’t carry much power when he runs, which you would expect from a back his size. He seems best suited as a third-down playmaker. Strong will have to improve his blocking techniques to really hold down such a role, however.”

    (Source)

  • Tyler Sullivan, CBS Sports

    Strengths: Rushed for at least 1,000 yards in three of his fours seasons and averaged more than seven yards per carry in those seasons, which included 18 rushing touchdowns in 2021. Built low to the ground and can move — he ran a 4.37 40 at the coming. Has the ability to jump cut to find the gap on the backside, and can run through arm tackles all day long. Quick feet buy him time and space to earn extra yards in tight areas, and he’s patient in the backfield before exploding through the hole to the second level.

    Weaknesses: Won’t consistently run through a lot of defenders because of his smallish frame, and the level of competition will be a factor NFL teams must weigh when they stack their respective draft boards.

    (Source)

  • Nate Tice, Bleacher Report

    “Pierre Strong Jr. is a fast running back with a gliding run style that works best going north and south. Although he handled plenty of touches throughout his college career, he has a below-average build that will limit his carries at the next level because of durability concerns.

    Strong can truly take any run the distance with his very good speed and has a weaving running style that takes advantage of second-level blockers. He has above-average vision and doesn’t dance on his runs, understanding when to get north when he has to. Strong has above-average lateral quickness but struggles to stop and start once he gets going and is best staying vertical on his runs.

    However, he has below-average contact balance and play strength. He is not a soft runner but can be tackled on side blows and can be inconsistent when making defenders miss in space.

    Strong does flash the side-to-side twitch to make a defender miss down the field. He has above-average hands when coming out of the backfield and has potential as a receiver on screens with his explosive-play ability.

    Overall, Strong can bring real juice from the backfield for any NFL offense on Day 1. He has some tread on his tires, and his lack of size and play strength will prevent him from taking on a three-down role, but he has the vision and speed to create big plays if given the runway.

    Strong will be best utilized as part of a committee where he can spell a bigger back and use his speed on runs and screens against worn-down defenses. He is a competitive and tough player who has the athleticism to give him a chance to contribute on special teams as well.”

    (Source)