Southern Cal wide receiver Marqise Lee isn’t the only top NFL Draft prospect who’s recently injured his knee, as Florida DT Dominique Easley recently tore his ACL and meniscus, something considerably more severe than Lee’s bad sprain. It was recently announced that Easley, a senior, wouldn’t petition the NCAA for a medical redshirt, and instead he plans to enter the 2014 NFL Draft. He was considered a first round prospect, but is he still?
Yikes. This is just a shame. You hate to see a player go down, especially a prospect as talented as Easley and especially when it’s a knee. To make matters worse, this is the second time he’s torn an ACL, one on each knee. There’s no doubt he’ll be selected in the next draft, but he’s got an uphill battle to go to get back to first round status.
Prior to the knee injury, Easley (6-foot 2, 280-pounds) was an explosive three technique tackle who regularly penetrated backfields with his excellent speed and quickness. He doesn’t have great size, but he’s been outstanding at capitalizing on his superior footwork, hands and angle-control. The bottom line is that speed was his greatest asset, and injuring a knee is the worst thing that could’ve happened to him.
The good news? ACL injuries aren’t quite what they used to be, given the incredible advances in the sports medicine field. It’s a legitimate nine-month recovery, and that’s a best case scenario. Adrian Peterson‘s fiercely quick return is the furthest thing from the norm. More good news is that Easley has successfully come back from this injury before and knows what it takes to return to full health. With the draft being pushed back until May, he’s got about eight months to get healthy.
The bad news is that NFL teams are terribly afraid of anyone with a history of knee injuries, especially two torn ACLs, one in each knee. There’ll be some teams that immediately write him off, considering him damaged goods. Is that right? Of course not. This is certainly not an indication of Easley as a player or a person, it’s just a freak accident. But NFL teams are investing an awful lot of money in players these days, and it’s a very impersonal league.
I don’t think Easley will be selected in the first round, despite his first round talent-grade. I do believe Easley can and will successfully come back from this injury, but he’s looking more like a third day pick right now. How he recovers and rehabilitates will be closely watched by personnel men, and if he can come back healthy earlier than expected, he still has a chance to regain some draft stock.