The Patriots defied numerous predictions and stayed at the 29th spot in the first round of this year’s draft, where they selected Dominique Easley, a senior defensive end out of Florida.
Given Bill Belichick’s connections to Gainsville, Easley’s selection does not come as a shock, but the fact that he was picked this early in the draft is a mild surprise. Easley only played in three games last season due to injury, but he was productive when he was on the field.
At 6’2, 288 pounds, Easley is a little short for defensive end but that allows him to have a low pad level and get great leverage on blockers, especially tight ends. He has a great motor and is known for having a strong first step off of the line of scrimmage. The only work out he was able to participate in at the combine was the bench press, where he had 26 reps. Because he’s had both knees reconstructed, NFL.com gave him a mid 3rd round grade. Easley has the feel of a hybrid type defensive lineman who can put his hand in the ground and rush the passer, or if need be he could drop back into coverage. Think of him as having a similar skill set to Rob Ninkovich.
With premier wide receivers, interior defensive linemen, and tight ends on the board at 29, Easley’s selection is a head-scratcher, especially considering that he would have very likely been sitting there at the end of the second round. Perhaps Marqise Lee, Jace Amaro, Stephon Tuitt, or Luis Nix III would have been better options at 29, or the Pats could have traded back if they were not enamored with any of them. This is such a deep draft this year and to take a mid third round guy at 29 seems very un-Belichickian.
Obviously it is way to early to determine if Easley will pan out, but he was a reach at 29. Bill very well might know something that we don’t. Easley should fit into the rotation right away and could be a huge asset on passing downs early on. In today’s league, it can’t be overstated how important it is to have fresh legs come in to rush the passer and give Jones, Ninkovich, and Smith some rest.