BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots did not trade out of the first round Thursday night and actually used their first selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, adding some youth to their defensive line.
The Patriots drafted defensive tackle Dominique Easley out of Florida with the 29th overall pick. He adds more depth and talent to the defensive line, but the pick also comes with some injury concern.
The 6-2, 288-pound Easley can apply the pressure from the inside from many positions, but is currently recovering from a right ruptured ACL that kept him out of pre-draft workouts. He also tore his left ACL during the 2011 season, so his medical history was a big concern for teams ahead of the draft.
But the Patriots felt comfortable enough to make the selection, hoping that Easley can stay healthy and help with a pass-rush that struggled to apply pressure late last season. With Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly both coming off injuries, Easley will add some much-needed depth alongside Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones and Joe Vellano.
It’s a high-risk, high reward pick for the Patriots, something Belichick isn’t known for when it comes to first round picks. But the selection speaks volumes to what Easley can do on the field when healthy.
Here is a quick pre-draft scouting report on Easley from CBSSports.com:
STRENGTHS: Easley proved a quick-healer after a torn ACL in 2010, by coming back to start 11 games in 2012 and showed versatility, lining up at defensive end. Easley’s tackle numbers dropped overall (26) but he finished with more big plays (8.5 for loss, team-leading four sacks), including 3.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the Sugar Bowl loss. Easley’s explosiveness off the ball has been among the best in the conference. He also has quick, active hands to slap away blockers and is able to hold up well against the run at this level due to good core strength.
WEAKNESSES: At under 290 pounds, Easley may be considered undersized to be an every-down interior DL at the next level. As with any player who has suffered an ACL tear, there may be questions about durability and long-term health.
Easley played everywhere on the defensive line at Florida, and versatility is one thing Bill Belichick loves out of his defensive players. From all accounts Easley is a hard-working player with a good head on his shoulders and a nose for the ball. Had it not been for the injury history, Easley could have been an early first-round pick.
Easley, a team captain with the Gators last season, is the fifth defensive lineman drafted by the Patriots in the first round under head coach Bill Belichick. He joins a very good group in Richard Seymour (2001), Ty Warren (2003), Wilfork (2004) and Chandler Jones (2012).
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