The Patriots 31st and 126th overall selections to pick former Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower 25th overall. Hightower was one of the more coveted linebackers in the draft and was expected to be a target for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens as they look to replenish their aging linebacker corps. Boston Globe's Greg Bedard says that he, "heard from a few NFL sources that aren't thrilled the Steelers passed on Hightower and let him get to the Patriots." That definitely means he's a great pick, right?
Hightower was a four year starter at Alabama, a tremendous accomplishment, and played both the Will (weakside linebacker) for the first half of his career and the Mike (middle linebacker) for the second half. His versatility definitely attracted the Patriots.
Hightower stands at 6'2, 265 lbs, which is hefty for an inside linebacker. Hightower is known to be a thumper in the Brandon Spikes mold, but with much greater speed. He has tremendous instincts and can- and will- make plays all over the field. He has the ability to drop into coverage, stop the run, and rush the passer. He can doing everything to a high level and it's clear the Patriots respected his abilities.
Look for the Patriots to utilize Hightower all over the field. He can play both inside and outside linebacker in both the 3-4 and the 4-3. As teams inevitably start using outside linebackers in 4-3 fronts as pass rushers (like Von Miller), Hightower can put the Patriots ahead of the game. Regardless of the Patriots defensive formation, there is a place for Hightower on the field.
The Patriots had to move up to snag Hightower and he's definitely worth the move, in my opinion. If the Patriots didn't make the move, he would have slid to the conference rival Ravens and, if he adds such great value to the Patriots, why not take him? Hightower was one of the nation's premier defenders and the Patriots needed help at all levels of their defense. He adds versatility and leadership to the defense and, if he keeps his weight down, he could develop into one of the league's best linebackers.