Round 1 – No. 29
Dominique Easley, DT
New England Patriots
Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 288 lbs.
Age: 22 – Class: Senior
A first-round talent who would have been drafted much earlier if not for injury concerns, Florida Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley heard his name announced late Thursday night when the New England Patriots selected him with the No. 29 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Easley, a quick and explosive three-technique lineman who possesses a lightning-fast first step and terrific inside pass rush skills, is the second Florida defensive tackle to come off the board in the first round in as many seasons after DT Sharrif Floyd was picked six spots earlier at No. 23 overall by Minnesota in 2013.
A starter at UF for three seasons, he is the first Gators player selected by the Patriots since the team took three players in 2010 and will be able to show his relentlessness and versatility from the get-go. Easley compiled 72 total tackles (18 for loss) and 5.5 sacks in 32 games with 26 starts.
“He’s an all-in guy. There’s not much to not like about him,” said head coach Bill Belichick after making the selection. “I’m always looking for people who can hit the quarterback. No question. It’s at a premium.”
Despite suffering a devastating knee injury – including a torn ACL (the second such injury in his career) – six games into the 2013 season, Easley has spent the last seven months undergoing intense rehabilitation. He called his knee 80-85 percent at Pro Day last month and expects to be 100 percent healthy at some point during training camp.
Easley is the 11th Florida player to be drafted in the first round in the last eight years and 46th in school history dating back to 1936. He is also the 12th overall to be chosen by New England in the history of the NFL Draft though none of the previous 11 were first-round selections. Easley will be the only former Gators player on the Patriots’ roster despite the team picking eight UF players dating back to 1999.
If New England had not chosen Easley at No. 29 overall, the consensus amount NFL reporters is that Seattle – with former Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in the same position – would have snagged him at No. 32. The Seahawks subsequently traded out of the pick after the Patriots selected Easley.
“Dominique Easley is one of the best value picks in this draft,” said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. “He was a top-30 pick until he tore his ACL this September. … A lot of people felt like he was going to end up dropping because of the ACL. … This is a typical Bill Belichick pick. He’s got talent. The rest of the league discounted the talent because of the injury. … This kid is gifted.”
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