By: Ian Logue
Here in New England, the first round of the NFL Draft tends to be relatively uneventful and the notion of grabbing a top 10 player ends up being something that’s not a possibility for a team that hasn’t finished below .500 for nearly fourteen years.
Many believe Easley may have been a steal for the Patriots.
(USA TODAY Images)
As a result, the big name players are usually long gone by the time the Patriots are usually making their first selection. That’s the price they pay for being one of the NFL’s elite teams, as well as a perennial winner. When you’re a team that has won 10 or more games every year since 2002, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, you don’t get the luxury of drafting a top 10 talent.
That may have changed Thursday night.
Despite picking at 29th overall, the Patriots managed to land Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley with their first selection of the 2014 NFL Draft, who is a player that most experts this morning feel was a steal for New England.
Easley slipped so far down the board primarily because he suffered two ACL tears in both knees during his collegiate career, with one in 2011, and then another last September on a wet field in a non-contact practice drill. The latter cost him the rest of his senior year.
With questions surrounding his future, it caused him to slip down the board Thursday night and right into the Patriots hands. Many felt that had it not been for his injuries, Easley would have potentially been a top 10 pick considering what a dominant player he was when he was healthy for the Gators. Bill Belichick told the media last night following the selection that when it came time to pick they didn’t want to let him get away, and he’s not worried about Easley’s knees.
“We felt good about Dominique, and there were a couple teams behind us that, we just didn’t want to take a chance on him,” said Belichick. “We feel like he’ll be all right.”
On paper Easley isn’t the type of player who puts up a lot of numbers, accumulating 72 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks during his collegiate career. However, his power and his presence inside often commanded the attention of multiple blockers, allowing guys around him to make plays. That’s something Belichick also pointed out, and feels Easley has a good knack for.
“He’s a very disruptive player,” said Belichick. “In college, I would say his stats might have been a little bit deceiving because a lot of times he was the disruptive person on the play, but he wasn’t the guy who ended up making the tackle. Or it wouldn’t be on the stats sheet, but the reason the play wasn’t successful was his penetration and ability to be disruptive. I think he has a good knack for that. He’s an explosive player. ”
That’s the type of player Vince Wilfork had been prior to his Achilles injury and one that New England has needed to add alongside him. One good thing about Easley is he does a good job of creating inside pressure, which could certainly allow Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich more opportunities to get to the quarterback. Even if they don’t get to him, if Easley is able to help them be disruptive, he could alter the throw well enough to allow cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner chances to create a turnover.
These are things we’ve seen the Patriots begin to do over the past couple of seasons, and Easley appears to be the next piece in a defense that has made some massive strides this offseason.
His addition certainly gives them some options, and the fact that he’s also played in multiple spots up front offers them some versatility in a defensive scheme that tends to change week-to-week. Needless to say it sounds like he should fit in quite well, and Belichick is happy that Easley was on the board long enough for them to take him.
“He’s a versatile guy that’s played different positions along the defensive line,” said Belichick. “So we’ll just see how it all comes together here, but I’m glad he was able to last that long. I’m looking forward to having him.”