New England Patriots: 2014 NFL Round 1 Rapid Reaction

Patriots pick Dominique Easley in 1st

May, 8, 2014
May 8
11:39
PM ET
videoFOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The pick: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida.

My take: Surprised. When I think about when the New England Patriots have been at their best in the draft, it's when they have locked in on "clean," steady picks with limited injury history. Easley tore both ACLs in college, so the first thing about this pick is the medical history. The Patriots obviously feel comfortable with it and if Easley returns to form, they picked up an explosive interior pass-rusher who would have been picked higher (top 15 perhaps) if not for his injury history. Easley (6-foot-1¾, 288 pounds) doesn't fit the prototype of the big, sturdy defensive linemen often associated with the Patriots, as he's more of an interior rusher. This is an indication to me that Bill Belichick is taking into greater consideration the fact that the team is playing an increasing number of snaps in sub packages (67 percent last year) and that defensive linemen who can pressure from the inside -- more so than play a two-gapping style to defend the run -- have greater value to the Pats than in the past. Think about the AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos and how the Patriots struggled to pressure inside against Peyton Manning. A player like Easley, if he is healthy, could be the answer to that trouble spot.

A feel for the defensive tackle spot: Starting defensive tackles Vince Wilfork (32) and Tommy Kelly (33) are closer to the end of their careers, while the Patriots also have nose tackle Sealver Siliga, interior penetrators Chris Jones and Armond Armstead, and second-year player Joe Vellano on the depth chart. Easley's skill set seems to most mirror that of Jones (second round) and Armstead, the former Canadian Football League player who the team had high hopes for before a surprise infection cost him the entire 2013 season. Easley is a rare talent and will upgrade the unit, but the injuries can't be ignored.

What's next: The Patriots pick again at No. 62 in the second round.

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