2014 NFL Draft Player Review: Dominique Easley

As we all know, last season was a disaster for the Florida Gators football program. The team won just four games, finishing in fifth place in the SEC East. One of the biggest reasons why the Florida Gators struggled throughout last season was the fact that as a whole, the team had an extremely tough time staying healthy. It is hard to argue that the worst injury suffered by a player is when defensive tackle Dominique Easley fell to a torn ACL in practice.

Dominique Easley headlined what was a very good recruiting class for the Gators in 2010. Although he did not play much during his freshman season, his incredible sized matched with his great speed and ability to quickly get off of the line had Gator fans hopeful that he would quickly turn into a major contributor. It didn’t take long for Easley to earn playing time. In his second season with the Gators, Easley played in twelve of Florida’s thirteen games. During his time on the field, Easley was very productive. He finished the season off with 37 tackles, with seven and a half of them resulting in a loss. Easley was also able to get to the quarterback one and a half times. After a strong sophomore season, all eyes were on Easley to be the next great Gator. Unfortunately, Easley tore his left ACL late in the 2011 season, forcing him to miss the team’s bowl game against Ohio State.

The knee injury could have contributed to Easley’s slow start during the 2012 season. He was not the same player he was in the previous season, as the injury clearly affected his game. The injury bug continued to plague Easley as he was forced to miss three early season games against Kentucky, LSU, and Vanderbilt. Despite the two injuries, Easley was able to return quite nicely. In fact, it wasn’t until the later part of his junior season when Easley really took over the defense. He finished out his junior season well, recording at least half a sack in four out of the last seven games of the season. His streak of sacks helped him as he went onto lead the team in that category.

Last season, everyone expected Easley to carry over his great play from the year before. To the surprise of no one, Easley was a named a consensus preseason First Team All-SEC selection. It appeared that Easley was able to prove everyone that he was worthy of that honor, as he started off the season playing exceptionally well. Although he wasn’t putting up huge numbers, he was still a disruptive force on the interior of the line. But yet again, Easley was plagued by the injury bug. This time, it was his right knee that he injured. After the game against Tennessee, Easley suffered a torn ACL during practice.

With two separate knee injuries, you would think that Easley’s draft stock heading into this year’s draft will not be very high. Well, even with Easley being susceptible to injury, he is still considered to be one of the top defensive lineman heading into May’s draft. One of the main reasons why Easley’s stock has not plummeted as much as expected is that he proved to be a quick healer. Coming off his first ACL injury, Easley returned the following year and was able to play in ten out of the thirteen games. Not only was he able to quickly get back on the field, but he also was able to keep his great speed and versatility, as he lined up on each spot on the defensive line.

Putting his durability aside, there is a lot to like about Easley. He is very explosive off the snap and has the versatility to play either inside or out. In fact, many were comparing him to Jadeveon Clowney as one of the quickest off of the line in college football. He is also extremely strong for his size and, as a result, he is exceptionally disruptive. Of course, with the positives there are always negatives. The biggest knock on Easley is his size. He lacks the length that many teams look for in their defensive ends and he doesn’t have the size that many scouts look for in a defensive tackle.

Overall, I can see Easley being drafted either in the mid to late portion of the second round or early in the third. There is no way he falls any more than that; he is just too talented. If he was able to consistently stay healthy at Florida, he could easily be a first round pick. Easley would be best fit in a 4-3 defense as an interior lineman. It would also be extremely beneficially if Easley is drafted by a team that is looking to add a later rotation guy. Coming off an injury, you do not want to rush him into a rotation. Allow him to get healthy and don’t ask him to do too much early on.

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