The New England Patriots ranked near the bottom of the league in many defensive statistical categories last season, so it’s no surprise to see them grab a high-ceiling defensive player with pick No. 29 overall of the 2014 NFL Draft. Said player is Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley.
The SEC standout was no lock to hear his named called on the first night of the draft, but that had nothing to do with any shortcomings of talent. Easley is supremely talented. He’s a high-motor three-technique defensive tackle who possesses the explosive penetration ability to wreak havoc as an interior pass rusher or a run stuffer. The biggest concern with him is his injury history, specifically the two ACL tears he suffered at Florida.
If no long-term durability concerns surface, Easley could be remembered as one of the true steals of this draft. He’s the type of player who can help make New England a more well-rounded team, potentially playing a large role in giving it a formidable defense to pair with its prolific offense.
Easley also addresses a huge need for the Bill Belichick‘s club. Last year’s starting interior duo was depleted when Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly sustained season-ending injuries. The defense, as a whole, still competed, but it wasn’t quite the same after the two went down. Both Wilfork and Kelly enter the 2014 season as question marks. Not to mention neither provides the team with any long-term assurance at the position. Wilkork is 32 while Kelly is 33.
Easley is the young, promising talent New England needed at the spot. If he can stay healthy, he makes the Patriots much more dangerous on the defensive side of the ball.
Cody Strahm is an NFL author for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.