2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Florida Defensive Lineman Dominique Easley

March 27th, 2014

Ligament tears in both knees have derailed him, but Florida’s Dominique Easley continues to battle back. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this ninth installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley.

Coming out of Curtis High School in Staten Island, N.Y., Dominique Easley was a five-star recruit. He was the second-ranked defensive tackle in the 2010 class by Rivals.com and Scout.com. He was invited to the Under Armour All-America Game that January. And by that February, the 6’2”, 255-pound Warrior was committed to the Florida Gators.

Five months later, Easley was enrolled down in Gainesville. He flashed enough promise that summer to avoid redshirt that fall, ultimately playing in six games and recording four tackles as a true freshman. Although in 2011, the preseason All-SEC third-teamer did more than flash; he started all 12 regular-season contests to register 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a blocked punt.

He wouldn’t make a 13th start as a sophomore, though. A second-quarter play versus Florida State took that from him.

Easley planted his left leg in the Ben Griffin Hill Stadium grass and went down without contact. And after limping to the sideline under the assistance of Florida’s medical staff, the flourishing 288-pounder had to be carted off.

It was a torn ACL. But it wasn’t the last of him.

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2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Northern Illinois Safety Jimmie Ward

March 24th, 2014

Jimmie Ward made his presence felt all over the Northern Illinois secondary. And upon reflection, the recognition he’s earned leading up to May’s draft has been well-deserved. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this eighth installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward.

Instinctual and determined.

Over the last four years, that was Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward in a nutshell.

Whether he was lined up as a special-teamer, a cornerback, a nickelback or a safety for the Huskies, Ward took the same approach to each play: make it count. The Mobile, Ala., native was able to do so dating back to his freshman season in 2010, when he participated all 14 games to block a school-record three punts, return one for a touchdown and record 21 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass deflection as a reserve safety.

Ward was named Northern Illinois’ Special Teams Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. And that momentum carried over on defense in 2011, as the sophomore logged work in all 14 games once again, starting 12 as a defensive back. He went on to tally 100 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception, four pass deflections, a forced fumble as well as another blocked kick, garnering second-team All Mid-American Conference acknowledgement in the process.

In 2012, Ward took another step forward, receiving first-team All Mid-American Conference honors in result. Despite missing one contest due to injury, the junior led the Northern Illinois defense with 104 tackles, one tackle for loss, three interceptions, 11 pass deflections and a forced fumble over 13 starts at safety. His best, however, was yet to come.

This past fall, the senior started all 14 games to register 95 tackles, 2.5 for loss, a sack, seven interceptions, 10 pass deflections, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on his way to becoming a first-team All-MAC selection, a third-team All-American and a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist.

Ward’s collegiate career ended with a 21-14 loss to Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl. But an unceremonious finish could not derail the perception on the former Alabama 6A All-State honorable mention. He outdid expectations. And leading up to May’s NFL draft, expectations are that he’ll be a first- or second-round draft choice. Read the rest of this entry »


2014 TE Prospects: Analyzing Athleticism

March 22nd, 2014

Eric Ebron is the consensus #1 TE prospect, but he’s joined by a few others in the discussion for the “Best Athlete” at the position (Photo: US Presswire)

By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer

The tight end position has endured a paradigm shift in recent years evolving from an athletically limited, run blocking specialist to a hybrid receiver with the separation skills of a wide out and the size of a tight end. With Rob Gronkowski being unreliable in terms of staying healthy the Pats could very well decide to supplement his elite skill set with someone who would complement as well as fill in for the man we call Gronk.

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Thoughts on the NFL Draft and Patriots Free Agency

March 20th, 2014

You can stop the talk right now. Brandon Browner isn’t moving to Safety.

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

This past week was one of the most exciting periods for the New England Patriots and their fans especially in terms of player acquisition. Unlike most years where the Patriots let the market come to them, Coach Belichick attacked the free agent market with a sense of urgency and landed real impact players. The free agent transactions have a real effect on the Patriots draft needs and their strategy entering the draft. Even though free agency is only week old, it’s time to breakdown the moves already made and look ahead to what’s next for the Patriots.

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Finding Brandon LaFell’s Purpose in the Patriots’ Receiving Plans

March 19th, 2014

Based on his utilization in the Carolina Panthers’ system, wideout Brandon LaFell appears to fit New England’s offensive plans. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

The New England Patriots officially announced the signing of former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell on Monday. But his purpose in New England’s offense will not be announced anywhere other than on the field.

The 6’2”, 210-pound LSU product agreed to a three-year, $9 million pact with the team, according to NFL Network’s Albert Breer, after catching 49 passes for 627 yards and five touchdowns as a starter last season.

The 27-year-old has played in 60 regular-season games since being selected 78th overall in the 2010 draft. He has amassed over 600 yards receiving over the last three years, all while never catching fewer than 36 passes over the last four years. He has gradually increased his touchdown totals as well, notching one in 2010, three in 2011, four in 2012 and five in 2013.

Now throughout his four-year NFL career, LaFell’s playing style and production have been steady but unspectacular for quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers. Yet the way in which he accrues his production is what makes him an interesting fit for quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots. Read the rest of this entry »


2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Florida State Defensive Tackle Timmy Jernigan

March 17th, 2014

Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan proved to be an inside presence worth accounting for as a junior in 2013. The defensive tackle is viewed as a likely first-round draft pick this May because of it. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this seventh installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan.

Timmy Jernigan is hard to miss – not only for his 6’1”, 299-pound frame and tight-fitting untucked jersey, but for his disruptive nature at the defensive tackle position.

It’s been evident dating back to his days at Columbia High School in Lake City, Fla., where a large No. 8 amassed 77 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and one interception as a senior in 2010, also adding four touchdowns on offense.

Jernigan found himself recognized as a five-star recruit. He was ranked the fourth-best defensive tackle in the nation by Scout.com. He was ranked the second-best defensive tackle in the nation by Rivals.com. He was ranked 17th overall on the ESPNU 150. He was named All-USA first-team defense by USA Today. He was a 2011 U.S. Army All-American.

And not long after, he was a Florida State Seminole. Read the rest of this entry »


Takeaways from Thursday’s Conference Call with ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

March 13th, 2014

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. shared his thoughts on the NFL draft and free agency in a conference call Thursday. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

With college pro days underway, free agency in full swing, and the 2014 NFL draft under two months away, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. shared his insight on a media conference call Thursday morning.

Kiper, who has been part of ESPN’s draft coverage since 1984, offered a different perspective on the prospects and the organizations set to cross paths at Radio City Music Hall this May. And with the League Year changing along with the personnel plans of each organization, there was no shortage of discussion.

Here are some of Kiper’s draft thoughts on the prospects and the potential interests around the league. Read the rest of this entry »




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