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Easley pick leaves plenty of Patriots needs still to be filled

Posted May 8, 2014

With Dominque Easley in the fold, Patriots still have top needs such as tight end, safety and pass rusher to be filled in the second and third days of the NFL draft.

Bill Belichick didn’t trade down in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. For the first time three years New England stayed put with its top selection and used the No. 29 pick on Florida defensive tackle Dominque Easley.

Easley is an undersized penetrator who’ll provide depth and insurance behind Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, both of whom are returning from major injuries.

Of course Easley himself is coming off a torn ACL that cost him all but three games in his final season with the Gators. It was his second torn ACL – on opposite knees – in the last three years.

While Easley brings athleticism to a New England defense that continues to be retooled in an offseason that included the addition of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, his addition seems more like a luxury, depth move with an eye on the future more than the current season.

While many mock drafts projected the Patriots to take a defensive tackles – with Louis Nix III, Stephen Tuitt and Ra’Shede Hageman all popular selections – the spot wasn’t exactly considered New England’s top need. Or even in the top few.

Even considering the mock draft predictions that seemingly came based on how the first round might unfold, many expected that the Patriots top needs heading into Thursday night included tight end, safety, defensive end and linebacker.

Those three spots remain needs as Belichick, Nick Caserio and the rest of the Patriots scouting department prepare for the second day of the draft on Friday when New England will pick at Nos. 62 and 93 overall.

“It’s definitely a restart,” Belichick said of restacking the board of talent that remains. “We’ll take a look at what’s there after 32 teams have selected.”

Some of the top names remaining at defensive end include Missouri’s Kony Ealy, Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence and Oregon State’s Scott Crichton.

The top hard-hitting safeties in the class – Louisville’s Calvin Pryor and Deone Bucannon – both went in the first round. Given the drop off in talent at the position to guys like Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon, USC’s Dion Bailey and LSU’s Craig Loston, it’s possible that safety may not be a likely target in the second or third round.

Tight end might be the most talent-rich position among the Patriots needs heading into round two. North Carolina’s Eric Ebron was the only tight end drafted in the first round. That leaves Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas and Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz to choose from in search of depth behind Rob Gronkowski as the Pro Bowler returns from his own torn ACL.

And with the Patriots having gone a full draft day without making a trade, don’t rule out Belichick moving around the board in the second or third round to maximize the value of his picks.

The first day of the NFL Draft is in the books. The Patriots have an exciting new penetrating defensive lineman on the roster, even if he is coming off his second career ACL injury.

New England has a night to sleep on its first day of work and to prepare for a potentially needs-based plan of attack heading into round two.

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