Patriots draft a defensive tackle

Patriots Draft Dominique Easley at the 29th overall pick during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

The theme of the Patriots offseason has been defense with the signings of All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis, hard hitting defensive back Brandon Browner, and veteran defensive lineman Will Smith. That continued during the draft when the Bill Belichick and the Patriots selected Dominique Easley, a 6-foot-2, 288 pound defensive tackle from Florida.

Easley was expected by many scouts to be a third or fourth round pick, but the Patriots saw something in the defensive tackle to pick him late in the first round with the 29th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Considered to be undersized by NFL scouts, Easley showed in college he's an explosive and athletic player with high-motor three-technique. His junior season was cut short in Week 3 by a knee injury. Injury history likely was the reason he fell in the Patriots lap at pick 29, but when healthy, he showed the ability to disrupt the backfield and pressure the quarterback. His scouting report shows he's best in an aggressive scheme in which he could use his quickness to slant, stunt and shoot gaps.

STRENGTHS:

Explodes off the snap, thrusts into gaps and wins the battle at the line with good leverage on blockers. He has relentless pursuit and does not give up on plays. He has quick and active hands with disruptive penetrating ability. This is a quality the Patriots are desperate for with their pass rush.
Dominique Easley.

WEAKNESSES:

He lacks ideal length and bulk and could use some more work in the weight room. He has short arms (nearly 33 inches) and can be neutralized by larger linemen in the NFL. He tended to be overaggressive at times and lose sight of the ball. He required ACL surgery on both knees in the past making durability a concern for the Patriots.

OVERVIEW:

Easley was highly recruited out of New York. He enrolled at Florida in 2010 and played in five games as a true freshman, recording four tackles, zero for loss and zero sacks. He was limited all year by an ankle injury. Earned a starting defensive tackle spot in 2011 and played in 12 games, recording 37 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

In October, he was allegedly involved in an altercation with former Alabama football player Reggie Myles. After an investigation, the University of Florida Police Department recommended he be charged with misdemeanor battery, but the State Attorney's Office declined to press charges.

In the regular-season finale against Florida State, he tore the ACL in his left knee and missed playing in the Gator Bowl. Returned to the field in 2012 and started 11 games at defensive end, recording 26 tackles and four sacks with one pass batted. He missed two games with a sprained meniscus.

He started the first three games of 2013 at defensive tackle as a team captain, but his season was cut short when he ruptured his right ACL and medial meniscus in a non-contact practice drill.

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Kevin Saleeba is the senior editor and columnist for Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinSaleeba or like him on Facebook.

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