The early-season injury to Florida defensive lineman Dominique Easley was one of the more unfortunate developments of the 2013 NCAA Football season. First of all, it provided a major blow to a Florida team that ended up being one of the least successful teams in school history. But more importantly for Easley, it ruined his opportunity to prove himself, which had to be particularly upsetting considering that many scouts believed he had first-round potential prior to his injury.
Easley, who tore his right ACL and medial meniscus in late September, has now suffered significant knee injuries in two of the past three years as he tore his left ACL in the Gators’ 2011 season finale. This setback has almost certainly taken him out of first round consideration and could cause a serious drop in his stock depending on how his rehab progresses.
When he’s on the field, Easley is a guy who can be a legitimate contributor. He has some great pass rushing skills which almost certainly will improve with good coaching at the NFL level. He also is one of the more visibly passionate football players in recent memory as he frequently will flail his arms around prior to the snap in an attempt to intimidate offensive linemen. He combines this intensity with two very unique signature moves: a roll that he uses to adjust his position just before the snap and an aggressive spin move in which he throws his body into offensive linemen.
Perhaps the biggest mystery for NFL teams with Easley is how to utilize him. He’s played all over the field in Florida’s hybrid defense, lining up at every tackle position and also rushing off the edge in both two and three-point stances. At just 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds, Easley is definitely on the smaller side for a pro defensive tackle so his best bet is probably to be a pass rush specialist in a 4-3 defense. He could spell defensive ends to provide more of a power rush and then shift inside on obvious passing downs to provide a speed rush on the interior. It’s conceivable that he could also play a 5-technique position in a 3-4 defense, although he would need to significantly improve his run-defending ability.
Overall, if he can stay healthy, Easley should be one of the better values on the second day of the draft. His skill set doesn’t really make him an attractive option as a long-term starter, but his exceptional athleticism should allow him to be a difference-making role player for years to come.
- Consistently gets good penetration
- Great pass rushing technique; gets low and swings his hips around to get to the quarterback quickly
- Utilizes a spin move which is very effective
- Very shifty and elusive; has a very unique set of moves that have confused offensive linemen as part of switches and stunts
- Solid speed and change of direction ability
- Experience lining up all over the field; frequently has worked out of the 0, 1, 3 and 5-technique positions, as well as occasionally rushing off the edge
- Very energetic and fun-loving personality which should make him popular with both teammates and the media
- Significant injury risk, coming off two major knee injuries in the past three seasons
- Undersized for an NFL defensive tackle and doesn’t have a clear-cut pro position
- Makes some plays as a run defender but is too inconsistent in that facet of the game
- Tends to struggle when he tries to get off blocks to make tackles
- High amount of passion that he displays on the field could be seen as a distraction by some teams
- Hasn’t put up overwhelming pass rush numbers at Florida which makes his subpar run defending ability less acceptable
Easley had gotten off to a good start through the Gators’ first three games, totaling five tackles, including two tackles for loss plus four quarterback hurries. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL and medial meniscus during a September 24 practice which required season-ending surgery. He quickly announced that he would be leaving school and entering the 2014 NFL Draft.
2014 Draft Projection: Third Round