Patriots Draft Pick Review: Dont’a Hightower

Dont'a Hightower 2012 NFL draft

What grade would you give Dont’a Hightower’s rookie season? (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Staff Writer: Tony Santorsa

With the 25th overall pick in this year’s past draft, the New England Patriots traded up with the Denver Broncos to select linebacker Dont’a Hightower out of Alabama.

My immediate reaction to this selection was that I loved it. I felt that Hightower was the perfect fit for the Patriots.

Throughout the entire scouting season, I was all over Hightower and felt that he’d be a perfect fit for New England. Hightower impressed me in so many ways, not only because of how he flourished with Nick Saban at Alabama, but his versatility and athleticism.

All in all, Hightower had a pretty solid rookie season with New England.

Much like fellow rookie Chandler Jones, Hightower wasn’t able to play the entire 16 game season as he dealt with a hamstring injury in Weeks 5 and 6.

Hightower’s most impressive showing came against the New York Jets back in Week 7. The 6’3″ 270 pounder recorded seven total tackles while recording a sack for a loss of 10 yards and was a major factor in New England’s 29-26 overtime victory.

At this point of Hightower’s career, he’s merely just a run-stopping linebacker—which is completely fine, as long as he continues to progress into a well-groomed every-down linebacker.

There is no doubt in my mind that Hightower has the potential to be one of the NFL’s top tier linebackers, but it’s going to have to take some time.

Hightower, along with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, could ultimately end up being the best linebacker corps in all of the NFL for many years to come.

2012 Stats: 14 games played, 60 tackles, four sacks, one defensive touchdown and three pass deflections

Letter Grade: B+

Tags: 2012 NFL Draft, Don'ta Hightower, Patriots Rookie Review

17 Responses to “Patriots Draft Pick Review: Dont’a Hightower”

  1. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    I have looked at lots of tape on D-lineman, looking for the prospect that would give great value as a later pick 3d-4th. The guy I like the best is DT Evertt Dawkins Florida State, 6’2″ 285 + runs a 4.86 40. Moves very well along the line, holds his ground well, tackles well, gets a good pass rush, quick enough to run stunts, balanced player, disruptive, against high competion level.
    If the Patriots want him, I think a 3d would get him, but he may move up some after the Combine, if he shows his great quickness.

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      Another D-linean I like alot is Joe Vellano 6’1″ 300 runs 5.4 40. The tape on this guy is very interesting, and I’m going to hear it, BUT I think he looks more like Vince Wilfork than any other DT in this draft. The way this guy holds the Olineman with one hand and half his body, while the other half and arm tackles the RB , is very similar to Vince. This guy moves well up and down the line, holds his ground on double teams, chase’s plays down, great balance, and he stays on his feet. Why is this guy currently projected a 7th rounder???

  2. Tom Williams says:

    There are no studs at the end of the first round so the Pats should try to trade their 1st pick to a perennial loser for their 1st rounder next year.

  3. Adam says:

    “Hightower, along with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, could ultimately end up being the best linebacker corps in all of the NFL…”

    I was very high on this vary notion throughout the 2012 season, especially by mid season when Mayo and Spikes combined, had more tackles than any other LB duo on any other team. But there is a clear issue at the Mike LB position in regards to Spikes. They clearly have heavy hitting, solid tacklers in all three LB’s, but the Mike LB is often depended on playing in space and being able to drop back into coverage. Spikes very clearly is incapable of doing this with consistency. They need to draft or sign a Mike LB who can fill that void, similar to Brian Urlacher (no easy feat).

    • td says:

      The only mike backer I can think of that drops into pass coverage is Urlacher. Take a look at Ray Lewis, he is slower than Spikes.

    • AM says:

      I think that Hightower’s continued improvement as a coverage linebacker would help here–it would let them pull Spikes off the field on 3rd and long, and substitute in Tavon Wilson or another coverage-oriented player in a big nickel package. But some speedy depth at ILB couldn’t hurt.

  4. Dan says:

    I just started getting into this year’s draft class, but I did look at a little film of the kid from Purdue….the DT…and, I have to say I don’t like his game at all, not in the 1st round
    I want them to get someone with some game…some heart…a player. I would start with a DB, if one is available, but after that they will need to take the best player available.
    I really liked the way Dennard played this year, and I won’t be happy if Talib isn’t back, or someone of his talent.
    He completely changed this season, and when he pulled up on that nice play against the Ravens I essentialy stopped watching the game because I knew they were done…I knew they would revert to the defense prior to acquiring him. But, Dennard is tough…he plays hard and can cover. He may never be a star, but in their system he could do very well…a nice #2 corner…a good thing from a late draft pick.

  5. Dan says:

    I would say that he needs to improve, and I feel he will. Like most professional football players he will have to do some things that may not be legal in order to reach these goals…those are the cold, hard facts. He and Chandler Jones need to step up and join the big boys and do what it takes to become more of a force and do so over the long season, and post season, hopefully.
    I would also think that Hightower may be better served to lose a good 10-15 pounds approx. and work on his speed game. He’s plenty big enough, but would be special if he could become a faster, coverage backer.

  6. Joe Blake says:

    Agreed, we need a DT to help out Vince, similar to how Vince subbed for Washington back in the day. When DTs go flat, they do it in a hurry. I really want a change of pace QB option as Brady insurance, Mallet isn’t that guy..can’t run, no touch. Robinson in 7th round works, plus FA traditional back up QB as further insurance. If Brady goes down, we may as well go the the library on Sundays! I like the Iowa OLB in the third. Keep Spikes, right attitude for D. SS in 2nd round…

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      The Pats added DTArmstead out of Canada, he WILL help. I like a DT also but late 3d 4th DT Kwame Geathers looks good and has a big up side.

      • Russell Easterbrooks says:

        Evertt Dawkins a DT out of Florida state looks like the best prospect in the later rounds. I like Geathers but he needs more work, as a JR. coming out early.

  7. td says:

    We now need DT’s that can get pressure (Pryor??) and DB’s up the wazoo.

    • AM says:

      I like Pryor, but he can’t seem to stay healthy, and he’s not exactly an irreplaceable talent. I’d like to see them shoot for some free agent or draft depth here.

  8. Nick says:

    I wish he could have been better in coverage, but he is simply too big for that. I think they may let spikes go to get a coverage LB eventually. Then Hightower would be playing his more natural MLB position. But it would suck to see Spikes leave.

    • td says:

      They’re going to need Spikes if they continue playing the 4-3.

      I’m convinced BB saw all the teams going to a 3-4 and our difficulty getting 300 pounders that could play the 5-technique and was ready to transition to the 4-3.

    • AM says:

      Don’t write off Hightower in coverage just yet. A lot of coverage ability for LBs is about technique and development. Let’s see if he can improve this offseason. Remember that even with Mayo’s smaller size, it took a couple of seasons for him to become more than just a tackling machine.

      • Nick says:

        True. I hope you are correct. I watched him a lot at Alabama, and I only remember a couple of plays where I thought he made a great play in coverage. I still see Mayo basically as a tackling machine. He can make the occasional play in coverage. But sometimes he gets Mccourty problems where he is in position to make a play, but does not turn around until the TE has the ball.






  • Categories

  • Search NEPD Archives

  • Archives