NEPD Editor: James Christensen
With the 25th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Patriots traded up with the Denver Broncos and selected former Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower. The Broncos received a 4th round pick for moving down from the 25th to the 31st pick.
Hightower displayed a lot of positional versatility during his time at Alabama. He spent a lot of time at middle linebacker, but showed a lot of talent rushing from the edge in passing situations.
It will be very interesting to see where Bill Belichick envisions Hightower lining up. In my opinion, he can line up at any 3-4 LB position and can put his hand down and rush the passer as a 4-3 DE as well.
He is decent in zone coverage, but isn’t a good man coverage guy. He does excel at taking on blocks on the inside and finds the ball very quickly.
Coming from the Nick Saban defense, Hightower should be ahead of the game compared to past Patriots rookies. Here is Saban on Hightower’s versatility:
He can play inside or outside backer, he can play mike or will inside. He’s played them both here. He can play outside, he’s been a designated pass rusher on 3 downs for us. He’s also been a stand-up fourth rusher when they put all the linebackers in there. He can play any one of those positions.
He’s a smart guy, he’s a signal caller that has really good leadership qualities and understands football extremely well and has a lot of diversity in terms of how you can use him. When you’ve got guys that size, that speed and that athletic who can do so many things, those guys don’t come around very often.
Here is our scouting report on Hightower.
On day two of the 2012 NFL Draft, I’d like to see the Patriots target a coverage linebacker or a cornerback/safety combination.