For much of Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft, the Florida Gators were a punchline. ESPN and NFL Network rolled countless highlights displaying prospects shredding the Gators during their abysmal 4-8 season. But former Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley eventually got the last laugh.
Easley, nicknamed Chucky, went No. 29 overall to the New England Patriots. A Gators defensive lineman was selected in the first round for the second season in a row.
“I watched this kid in person play against my alma mater at the University of Miami, and he played us and beat us with pure effort,” ESPN analyst Ray Lewis said following Easley’s selection.
“When you have a guy that talented that just beats someone with pure effort, effort will keep you around longer than just talent and this kid just plays with a bunch of effort. … I love watching kids who get it.”
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Easley’s senior season was cut short following a second non-contact knee injury in mid-September, but the dominant and disruptive defensive tackle overcame durability concerns during the draft’s extended process this spring.
Easley impressed scouts during a private Pro Day in April, showcasing his power, quickness and competitiveness.
He is the 12th Florida player drafted by the Patriots, including former UF standouts Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez and Jermaine Cunningham.
“He’s one of the best value picks in this draft,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said during the telecast. “He’s the prototype three-technique tackle. He’s quick.
He’s explosive. … This is a typical Bill Belichick pick. He’s got talent and the rest of the league discounted the talent because of the injury.