NEPD Editor: James Christensen
With the 29th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Patriots have selected Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley (6’2″, 288). Read on for my reaction to the pick—and not trading down.
Dominique Easley is a Top-10 talent. His lightning-quick first step allows for quick penetration and he lives in the defensive backfield. The big concern with Easley is his health. He has suffered two ACL injuries in the past—one in each knee—but reportedly received a clean bill of health at the combine. He told media on a conference call that “I’m healthy. I’m just ready to get up there and do whatever Coach Belichick wants me to do.”
This is what Easley can do when healthy:
The lone certainty when facing the enigmatic Easley is his rapid first step. After all, few are out of their stance by the time he’s across the line of scrimmage.
He makes the most of that responsiveness by propelling into gaps or carving around on stunts.
Albeit without overpowering strength or bulk, Easley sparks plays through his functional leverage, lean and active hands. He isn’t a catcher; he is one to make first contact, extending and locking his arms as he divides the blocking scheme. From there, his downhill speed and lateral agility often yield offensive holding penalties – he drew three last season against the Miami Hurricanes, alone.
Now there are times when Easley is on the wrong end of penalties as well, since he has a penchant for jumping the snap. When he gets off late, which is seldom, he loses the upper hand. He can struggle to disengage from a matchup due to a blocker’s length, hand replacement and his 32 7/8-inch arms. And when his initial release is met with lapses in technique, he tends to lose control.
More prominently, though, Easley’s rip and swim moves are difficult to harness at the point of attack. Though he isn’t a prototypical bull-rusher, his playing style remains a dynamic one. Whether he’s aligned over the center or outside the offensive tackle, Easley is a threat to crash through gaps, slant across the face of blocks, or run the arc. He can close the pocket. He can flush quarterbacks from them.
Look at Oliver Thomas’ full close-up of Dominique Easley for an in-depth look at the Florida Gator: Dominique Easley Draft Close-Up
Adding Easley to the fold in New England gives the front four a fearsome look. With Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones on the flanks and Easley and Vince Wilfork inside, offensive lineman are going to have a tough choice with who to double-team.
The Patriots could have traded down with talented players like Marqise Lee, Teddy Bridgewater, Easley and more on the board, but they were likely worried that Seattle would snag Easley at 32. That suspicion seems justified with the Seahawks trading out of the pick with Easley off the board.
Bill Belichick has taken a bit of a risk here with Easley, but look for it to pay off with some disruption on the defensive interior.