Patriots select Florida DT Easley at No. 29

Patriots select Florida DT Easley at No. 29
May 8, 2014, 11:30 pm
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FOXBORO -- Dominique Easley's talent is undeniable. But there's one caveat: It comes with two torn ACLs.

The Patriots selected the Florida defensive lineman with the No. 29 pick in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night, giving a welcome infusion of youth to a unit that sorely needed it.

After Vince Wilfork (32 years old) and Tommy Kelly (33) went down with season-ending injuries in 2013, the Patriots defensive line suffered badly and the Patriots' run defense finished the year ranked 30th in the NFL.

When healthy, Easley gives the Pats perhaps the most talented defensive linemen in this year's draft not named Jadeveon Clowney. He played all along the defensive line at Florida, showing his ability to penetrate and get into opposing backfields with regularity no matter where he was lined up.

Scouting reports rave about Easley's explosive first step and his nose for the ball. By all accounts, he's a good character guy who plays through the whistle and will never be lacking in terms of his effort.

The reason he was available to the Patriots at No. 29: His knees. He tore his left ACL in 2011 and his right ACL last season on a non-contact rep at practice after just three regular-season games.

Because of the most recent injury, which also included an MCL tear, Easley was not able to work out during the pre-draft process. That the Patriots still deemed him worth of a first-round pick -- especially when their history tells us they value players considered known commodities in the first round -- speaks volumes of his talent level, on-the-field intelligence and football character.