The New England Patriots selected Pierre Strong Jr. out of South Dakota State with the 127th overall pick in the 4th round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
The 23-year-old is a good athlete with above-average straight-line speed. In the passing game, he’s shown good hands out of the backfield, something he will likely need to translate to New England's offense if he wants to earn sufficient playing time.
Strong Jr. gashed up defenses for 1,686 yards and 18 touchdowns this past fall. In 48 career college games, Strong Jr. totaled 62 receptions for 581 yards and three touchdowns.
After being limited in training camp by an undisclosed injury, the former Jackrabbit practiced fully with the team Thursday. He took on his largest workload of training camp, taking snaps with the second-team offense.
Bill Belichick acknowledged how hard his rookie running back has been working to get on the practice field.
“He missed a little time at the start of camp and has come back lately, so he’s a little bit behind," Belichick said. "But he’s working hard, catching up. I’m glad he’s out there. I’m glad we’re working with him.”
Strong was asked how his pass-catching role was working out as he's been participating coming out the slot in team drills.
"It's going real well," Strong said. "Anything I can do to help the team win I'm going to be there to do it. If that's catching or running whatever that is, I'm just willing to help the team out."
The rookies' return to a full session is crucial, with veteran change-of-pace back James White still bouncing back from hip surgery and no lock to be full strength by Week 1. If White ends up out or limited early on this season, Strong in all likelihood would be a candidate to earn a portion of the Patriots' third-down back responsibilities early on in 2022.
White has since been rehabbing away from the team, but that hasn’t stopped him from embracing a leadership role.
"He's like my big brother," Strong Jr. said of White. "He helped me with everything with routes, all the plays, and he breaks it down simple for me so I can go out there and execute for my team."
The Patriots have generally been patient with rookie passing backs. Even players like White and Shane Vereen, who both made huge contributions in a Super Bowl, barely played in their first season. White barely played in 2014 after New England selected him in the fourth round, and Vereen played sparingly in 2011 after being pegged in the second round.
However, that does not mean Strong Jr. won't see game action.
Said Strong Jr., "I'm just ready for whenever my number is called to help the team."