Apr 26, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell introduces linebacker Dont

New England Patriots Select ILB Dont'a Hightower at #25 in the NFL Draft

The New England Patriots select Dont’a Hightower with the 25’th overall pick in the NFL draft. The Patriots traded their 31’st pick with Denver to move up to 25. HUGE move for the Patriots. We all knew this was going to be a defensive oriented draft, but in my WILDEST dreams, I didn’t think I’d see two defensive players of this caliber brought into the fold. Out of Alabama, Hightower was one of the majore contributors that saw the Crimson Tide through to another BCS title.

Here’s a look at Pro Football Weekly’s Scouting Report.

Positives:
Powerfully built with exceptional size, body thickness and take-on strength for the inside. Plays big. Can dominate fullbacks at the point of attack — explosive on contact. Extremely stout base. Plays square to the line and stones iso-lead blockers in the hole (see LSU). Can stack, shed and swallow ballcarriers. Physical tackler with knockback power in his body. Reroutes and can control tight ends at the line of scrimmage. Athletic mover for his size. Versatile — has played multiple positions and has the football smarts to line up the defense and handle any LB position (knows everyone’s assignments). Highly instinctive. Has lined up with his hand in the dirt and can set the edge and swat blockers out of the way. Highly respected, defensive signalcaller. Solid character. Works hard, is committed to the game and is well-versed in an NFL-style defense.

Negatives:
Does not always sell out around piles and appears to be protecting himself too much — leaves some production on the field. Can improve his hand use disengaging. Limited range and production in coverage — can be outflanked by speed backs. Has some heaviness in his movement — weight has pushed 270 pounds and might require monitoring. Lacks elite speed and short-area burst to bend the edge. Can expand his pass-rush arsenal. Can do a better job coming to balance and wrapping in space. Average book smarts. Durability requires evaluation.

Summary:
A big-bodied, physical run stuffer with deceptive movement skill and edge-setting strength to play outside, Hightower took time to recover from the ACL injury he suffered two years ago and has shown a tendency to play too cautiously since returning to the field. Is regarded as a two-down 3-4 “Mike” linebacker by some NFL teams but might fit best outside in an odd front given his physicality to control the line of scrimmage and stack the corner. His ability to kick outside on third downs enhances his value. Is scheme-diverse and versatile and has Pro Bowl potential when healthy.

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