The Patriots suffered significant injuries to the defensive tackle spot last season, which left the defense particularly vulnerable against the run, so they targeted that position with the 29th overall pick in the first round.
However, the player they chose, Florida's Dominique Easley, is one who has undergone surgeries on both knees during his college career. In fact, he missed nearly all of 2013 with a blown out anterior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus in his right knee.
"I'm healthy," Easley insisted when asked about his injuries during a post-draft conference call with New England media. "I'm really just excited to be a Patriot now and get to work and learn the system and do whatever the team needs me to do."
Easley revealed that the Patriots showed considerable interest in him during the pre-draft process, but even so, he was "surprised" when he got the call to be the team's first-round selection.
"Yeah, I actually was, and I was excited when I saw the Massachusetts number come up on my phone."
Easley is considered undersized for the d-tackle position, but his athleticism and aggressiveness are seen as his strengths. The Patriots historically haven't been an aggressive, shoot-the-gap defense, and with a 4-3 front, bigger-bodied tackles are more desirable. But Bill Belichick apparently felt differently about this particular player.
"He's a very disruptive player," the head coach told reporters around midnight, when the draft had concluded. "He may not have shown up a lot on the stat sheet in college, but a lot of times, a tackle was made because of his penetration into the backfield.
Patriots selected defensive tackle, Dominique Easley (Florida) with the 29th overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft.
"He's an explosive player… a very explosive player. Solid guy, likes football, smart. He does a lot of things well. Instinctive, works hard… There's not much to not like about him."
Aside from his injuries, of course. But Belichick seemed satisfied with his newest player's condition at this point.
"When he gets up here, we'll work with him and see where he's at. We feel he'll be all right."
New England didn't execute any trades on the first night of the draft, as many observers predicted would happen. Just before the draft started, actually, there was a media rumor that backup QB Ryan Mallett was on the trading block. However, that never materialized, and Belichick, when asked directly about those media reports, summarily shot them down.
He didn't rule out making trades over the remaining two days of the draft, though. At this point, the Patriots still have two picks going into Day 2 of the NFL Draft, when rounds 2 and 3 resume Friday evening at 7 p.m.