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One of the more intriguing defensive players in this year’s NFL Draft is Missouri defensive lineman Kony Ealy who, because of his rare collection of talents, is grabbing the attention of so many teams due to his versatility.
Ealy was a force to be reckoned with in the SEC this past season. As a junior, he totaled 9.5 tacks, and despite losing some attention playing alongside SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam, some scouts prefer the younger Ealy. According to NFL.com’s Charles Davis, Ealy is a more promising prospect who can rush the passer from both the interior of the defensive line as well as from the edge. With that in mind, Ealy could fit in as either a defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Ealy lined up at numerous positions along the Tigers’ defensive line, displaying a mile-high motor with a quick first step, as well as a strong showing against the run. At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Ealy is a natural athlete with plenty of power, and most importantly, he’s instinctive.
On the next level, Ealy will have to improve his ability to anticipate snap counts and playing less tall. He’ll also have to work on how he uses his hands and getting better at following the ball.
Ealy is listed as the No. 17 prospect in this year’s draft, according to CBS Sports, and the second-rated defensive end. He’s ranked No. 26 overall by ESPN as the third defensive end behind Jadeveon Clowney and Stephon Tuitt, and No. 40 overall by Rotoworld.
Two of the most frequently mentioned destinations for Ealy are with the Dallas Cowboys (No. 17) and the Cincinnati Bengals (No. 24). Both teams need help along the defensive line, and both reportedly covet the former Missouri standout.
The Cowboys will be faced with a decision about which defensive linemen they can afford between Jason Hatcher, who had a career year this past season, and Anthony Spencer, who was sidelined due to injury. Ealy’s versatility definitely comes into play here, as he can slide into an end spot and offer a pass rush opposite DeMarcus Ware.
Similarly, the Bengals may have difficulty re-signing impending free agent Michael Johnson, despite only registering 3.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles this year. Cincy could slap Johnson with the franchise tag or nab Ealy if he is still around at the end of the first round.
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