FOXBOROUGH — Had it not been for Dominique Easley’s medical history — he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in both knees while playing at Florida — the disruptive defensive tackle may not have lasted to the No. 29 pick, where the Patriots selected him in the first round of Thursday night’s NFL Draft.
With a clean bill of health, Easley could have been a top-15 pick, like Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, whom the St. Louis Rams selected at No. 13.
Despite Easley’s injury history, the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick believed he was too good to pass up, especially with interested teams such as San Francisco and Seattle picking after New England.
But selecting Easley may not be as much of a risk as it seems, according to orthopedic surgeon Lonnie Paulos, who repaired quarterback Carson Palmer’s ACL and has more than 30 years of experience with sports injuries.
“They’re betting the odds and I would too. They wouldn’t have taken him if his knees didn’t feel stable,” Paulos told the Globe in a phone interview Friday.
Easley, who tore his right ACL and medial meniscus in September in a non-contact practice injury, had surgery done by Dr. James Andrews in late October.
On Thursday night, after Easley was drafted, he said in a teleconference that he was healthy, but declined to say whether he was 100 percent.
Paulos said he was “pretty sure” Easley will be ready for the regular season.
The timetable of return from an ACL injury varies on the player’s position and the type of procedure that was done to repair the knee, according to Paulos. The return is often quicker for a lineman as opposed to a running back or wide receiver, who has to make quicker cuts and put more stress on the knee.
Paulos, who helped Andrews establish the Andrews Institute for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Pensacola, Fla., said it is likely Easley underwent a bone-tendon-bone graft, the same procedure used to repair Tom Brady’s torn ACL, done by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
With a BTB graft, a hole is drilled in both the femur and the tibia, and a strip of the patella tendon is harvested with bone attached on each end in place of the ACL.
According to Paulos, the BTB graft is the procedure most used to repair ACLs for NFL players because of its quick recovery time. If a player injures just his ACL and has a BTB graft, the consensus is that he can return in 4-6 months.
The return is slightly delayed if there is additional damage, such as a meniscus tear, which prolongs the period of being on crutches.
“It’s a popular graft because it’s extremely fast to heal,” Paulos said. “You can start some rehab by three weeks, get on the bike or get in a pool, and start working the quads and hamstrings faster than other graft choices out there.”
Easley tore the ACL in his left knee toward the end of his sophomore season, also a non-contact injury.
Paulos said most ACL injuries happen on non-contact plays.
“Some knees are going to tear [on non-contact]. Where the cruciate comes through the middle of the knee, if the guy twists just right, the bone will cut off that cruciate like a pair of scissors,” Paulos explained. “The chances of getting it a second time are over 30 percent.”
With a BTB graft, the anatomy of the knee is also opened up around the cruciate so it won’t pinch again, giving a player more tolerance for running, jumping, and twisting.
“If you look at re-tears after a BTB, even in the NFL and college sports, the probability is between 10 and 15 percent, it’s quite low,” Paulos said.
In 32 games with the Gators, Easley recorded 72 tackles and 5½ sacks, but only played three games his senior season before he was injured.
He showed flashes of dominance, recording two tackles for a loss before his season ended. The Patriots are hoping he can be the same disruptive player in Foxboro.
Paulos thinks the Patriots will get just that.
“Everybody knows a determined lineman, regardless of knee injuries, can get the job done,” Paulos said. “He must be a blue-chipper and they’ll get their money’s worth.”
Eyes on Manziel
On Friday afternoon, the website BroBible posted a document it claims as the Patriots’ scouting report on Johnny Manziel.
BroBible said a tipster received the PDF file from a New England employee, and that “after vetting the document, and ascertaining that the author of original document is a member of the Patriots organization, we feel it is an official New England Patriots document.”
Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, was selected 22d overall by the Cleveland Browns. He has great upside, but concerns swirled about off-the-field issues while at Texas A&M.
In June of 2012, Manziel was arrested after he was involved in a fight and produced a fake ID, police said. In July of 2013, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of failure to identify. He was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.
Here are some excerpts from the scouting report:
■ “Outstanding athlete with gd. arm strength, gd. accuracy, outstanding play/speed quickness and rare mobility for the position.”
■ “Gets VG protection but has a VG feel for pressure; first instinct is to bail out of pocket backward while WRs uncover.”
■ “Will make a couple bone-head decisions every game, but also makes several game-changing, explosive plays in every exposure.”
■ “Teammates don’t dislike him, but there’s some resentment, more so in the offseason when he isn’t coming to workouts and they are busting their butt.”
■ “Knows how to scheme the system, arrogant and full of himself, but he’s not smug to coaches. Has been like this since Day 1, has never gone to class, goes to beat of own drum, but has ultimate confidence.”
■ “Couple of TXTC sources say can’t yell/scream at him or he shuts down; has walked away from [former A&M quarterback coach Kliff] Kingsbury in the past.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated who performed ACL surgery on Tom Brady. It was Dr. Neal ElAttrache.