Patriot’s fans, including myself, were giddy when the Patriots traded up to draft linebacker Dont’a Hightower with the 25th pick in the NFL draft. Hightower was considered one of the premier linebackers and defensive players of his class. Hightower had a tremendous four year run under Nick Saban, a Belichick disciple. Hightower was the centerpiece of the defense that won two BCS Championships during his time there.
Hightower’s speed, strength, football IQ, and familiarity with the Alabama system (many similarities to that of the Patriots) made him an exciting player to Belichick and the organization, and ultimately it was decided he was worth trading up to get. Pairing Hightower with Mayo and Spikes proved to be a fearsome force for opponent’s running backs to deal with, especially factoring in the dominant play of Vince Wilfork, and other members of the Patriot’s D-Line.
Hightower’s ability to play at a high level in the NFL was immediately apparent to his teammates and coaches during training camp. In the Patriots first regular season game vs. the Titans, Hightower recovered a fumble caused by fellow first round pick Chandler Jones, and scrambled a few yards for a touchdown.Hightower had an excellent rookie campaign, and will be an important part of the Patriot’s defensive unit long into the future.
On the year, he had 60 tackles (5th on the team), 4 sacks (3rd on the team, behind Ninkovich and Chandler Jones), and 2 fumble recoveries. He is also valuable to the line backing core because he moves better than Mayo and Spikes, who make the Patriots vulnerable in middle of the field pass coverage.
Look for Hightower, Spikes, and Mayo to be putting players to sleep for years to come.