New England made a quick play Thursday to scoop up Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower with the 25th pick in the draft. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wasn't sure if such a move would be possible, but once the Steelers passed on Hightower, the Patriots traded up to the Broncos' spot to land the two-time national champion.
Hightower joins Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes to add quality and versatility to that group. Mayo, the 10th pick out of Tennessee in 2008, is a three-time captain who is signed through 2017. Spikes, a second-rounder out of Florida in 2010, is locked up through 2013. Based on the CBA, Hightower will sign a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth year that will keep him under the Patriots' control through 2017.
Depending on the Patriots' defensive front, they could use all three on the field at the same time. In a 4-3, Hightower would play the strong side with Spikes in the middle and Mayo on the weak side. In a 3-4, Mayo and Spikes would likely man the inside, while Hightower could play on the edge, which he did at times at Alabama. At minimum, Hightower adds frontline depth in the event of injury.
Hightower, a 6-foot-3, 262-pounder, is excited about the possibilities that exist with so much talent among the linebackers, who have been among the SEC's premier defensive players in the last decade.
"That would mean a lot to me," Hightower said. "I watched Jerod Mayo when he played at Tennessee, and I continued to watch him. I've seen a lot of Brandon Spikes. He played at Florida, loved banging heads in the SEC. Playing alongside those guys, those are two really good inside linebackers. I feel like we have a really good linebacking corps."