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2014 NFL Draft: New England Patriots select Dominique Easley with 29th pick

Florida's best defender in 2013 had his season cut short. But Dominique Easley was a first-rounder anyway.

Kevin C. Cox

The New England Patriots are no stranger to NFL Draft surprises, or Florida Gators. They made one of the former happen by grabbing one of the latter — defensive tackle Dominique Easley — with the 29th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft on Thursday night.

The Patriots have drafted a slew of Gators since Bill Belichick confidant Urban Meyer's arrival in Gainesville, from Chad Jackson down to Aaron Hernandez. (Those players have had somewhat disparate outcomes in New England.) But Easley's the really surprising pick in that mix, given his injury history, with ACL tears in both knees: Any team picking him with a first-rounder in this NFL Draft, conventional wisdom held, would be taking a risk.

The Patriots have done just that, wagering that Easley's phenomenal athleticism and burst off the line and versatility on the defensive front — he played everywhere up front for Florida over his four years in Gainesville, and usually well — will be worth the selection.

I'll bet that they're right. Congrats, Dom.