Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New England Patriots [Print without images]

Thursday, April 26, 2012
Rapid reaction: Dont'a Hightower

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The trade-up for linebacker Dont'a Hightower looks like a situation where Bill Belichick saw too good of a player to pass up.

At 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds, Hightower could fill a few different roles depending on what type of scheme the Patriots are playing. He fits as an inside linebacker in the 3-4, where Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes return as starters.

In sub packages, which the Patriots were in 65 to 70 percent of the time in 2011, Hightower could move around and be utilized multiple ways, including possibly as an edge player. Analysts call him an explosive player. He is big and powerful, and was a team captain.

The connection to Alabama is notable, as Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban is one of Bill Belichick's closest friends. So Hightower has shown the ability to pick up complex schemes, which is a necessity in New England.

You look at Hightower and one position doesn't stand out for him. This is a versatility type of pick -- coverage, run-stuffing, potential pass-rush help on the edge.

Bill Belichick is viewed as one of the NFL's best coaches at highlighting a player's strengths, and putting him in positions to succeed, and Hightower gives him a well-rounded player to work with.

Between Hightower and Jones, the front-seven has received a booster shot tonight. Two impressive athletes added up front.