Patriots first-round draft choice Dominique Easley is not yet cleared for practice as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL sustained last season at the University of Florida. When he ultimately is cleared, the possibilities are intriguing.
Doug Farrar of SI.com's "Audibles" blog gets deep into an Easley film study in a piece with the headline: "Break it Down: Dominique Easley could redefine New England’s defensive fronts."
"The tape more than backs up the hype, and we’ll get to that in a moment," Farrar writes. "The only thing that brings pause, of course, is that Easley suffered injuries to the ACLs in both knees through his collegiate career. Both injuries were non-contact in nature, and most analysts believe that had those injuries not happened, and Easley had been able to play at his collegiate level, he would have been a top-10 pick. I’d go a step further and say that if Easley had been injury-free at Florida, he might have been the first player taken overall; at the very least, the discussion regarding the best defensive player in this draft class would have been far more interesting."
If Easley emerges at that level for the Patriots, the team will likely be finding itself at the top of "defensive front" rankings, like this one from Mike Tanier of SportsonEarth.com. The Patriots aren't a top-5 unit at this time in Tanier's view.
Here is a snapshot look at the top of the Patriots' "defensive front" depth chart:
DE: Rob Ninkovich
DT: Vince Wilfork
DT: Tommy Kelly/Dominique Easley
DE: Chandler Jones
LB: Jerod Mayo
LB: Dont'a Hightower
LB: Jamie Collins
With five first-round draft picks, one second-round pick and two veteran free agents (one of whom -- Ninkovich -- was deemed worthy of a lucrative contract extension), that's significant resources devoted to upgrading the defensive front.