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What Do The Patriots See In Easley?

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is as hard as any coach to predict on draft day. With his track record of trading up or down in the first round every year, it is usually a memorable moment if, and when, the Patriots actually draft in their assigned position. During the 2014 NFL Draft, the Pats shocked everyone, not only by picking at number 29, but by taking Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley.

Not to take anything away from Easley, but did he really warrant a first-round selection? He had a solid career in Gainesville, but the production was not up to par with the rest of the players in his position. While he missed majority of his senior season before he tore his ACL and medical meniscus, he started 23 games combined as a sophomore and junior. He had a career-high four sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss as a junior.

It is just hard to see a player with those numbers go as high as he did. Just hours before the draft started, Football.com’s David Seigerman released his final draft board, and Easley ranked as the 59th best prospect and the fifth best defensive tackle. Some of the tackles ranked ahead of him, such as Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman and Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan, were still on the board when Easley was picked.  

With all of this being said, what was it that made the Patriots reach for Easley like they did? Whatever they knew, it seemed that the Seattle Seahawks were aware of as well. Reports came out on day-two of the draft that the Seahawks traded away the 32nd pick because Easley was off the board already. Seattle’s defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, coached the former Gator in college and liked his effort. But in Foxboro, there is no known connection to the incoming rookie.

When looking at his scouting report, nothing jumps off the page. He is 6-foot-2, 288 pounds and has an arm length just under 33 inches. He is undersized defensive tackle with injury concerns. Now, he adds to a group of defensive tackles in New England who all have injury concerns. Veterans Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly are on the back-side of their careers and Wilfork is coming off of a season-ending injury. With the aging starters, Easley may be seeing the field a lot sooner than expected, if he himself can stay healthy.