2014 NFL Draft “First Look”: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

The 2014 NFL Draft will present NFL general managers with a nice collection of defensive end prospects, starting with Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina.)  And while Clowney will receive most, if not all, of the pre-Draft attention, there are several other intriguing defensive ends that will potentially be available next May.

This edition of the FRG Scouting First Look series will focus on Kony Ealy, the junior defensive end for the Missouri Tigers.

Ealy was one of the top high school recruits in the state of Missouri.  He was recruited by several big-time programs including Nebraska, Arkansas and Georgia Tech.  He made his debut for the Tigers as a redshirt freshman in 2011 and was named to the 2011 Big-12 All Freshman team by Rivals.com  In 2012, he started a total of 10 games for Missouri, registering 3.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.  He is expected to once again be a starter in 2013.

Below is the FRG Scouting First Look at Kony Ealy:

Attribute
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
6'5", 275 lbs
 
Physical MakeupKony Ealy is a long, well-built prospect for the DE position. He presents as a player that has potential to add, or cut, weight depending on the scheme he's expected to play in. I'd like to see him shed a few pounds to improve his initial burst off the snap, but he has the necessary natural length to compete vs. NFL OTs.
Read & ReactEaly displays a nice ability to diagnose the play quickly after the snap. While he isn't the most explosive athlete, he does a nice job using his instincts and understanding of the offense's play design to shift his focus to play the run vs. playing the pass. Ealy does a nice job understanding when his pass rush has been neutralized and uses his length by putting his hands in the air to create obstacles in the passing lanes.
Initial QuicknessEaly is going to have to improve his overall initial quickness at the snap of the ball. At times, he flashes a nice first step and can really challenge the OT to the edge. At other times, he tends to stand up out of his stance and leaves his chest vulnerable to the OTs initial punch. I believe this is a consistency and overall motor issue that, as a young player, he's going to have to improve. Ealy possesses enough natural athletic ability to develop into an adequate edge rusher, but he needs to bring it on an every down basis.
Play StrengthMuch like the concerns with Ealy's initial burst, he at times seems to be overmatched, physically, by his competition. On some plays, Ealy looks like a man amongst boys. On others, he can be controlled by the OT with little effort. Ealy needs to protect his chest plate and develop his hands more in order to maximize his natural athletic ability and strength.
HandsEaly's most glaring flaw is his hands. He is an active player, but he is unable to consistently use his hands to slap away the OT's punch or to disengage once the OT gains the power position.
Shed BlocksEaly is a work in progress when shedding and disengaging. He can be neutralized and taken out of a play far too easily and much too often. Being that he possesses plus length, he must work on using it to his advantage. Again, it goes back to his hands and lack of an initial burst at the snap of the football.
When Run atWhile Ealy struggles to disengage and make an impact play, he does do a decent job anchoring and creating trash in front of the RB.
Pursuit/RangeOne of the best parts of Ealy's game is his ability to make a play from the back side. He does a nice job of pursuing the ball carrier down the line of scrimmage and often times ends up in on the play. His athletic ability serves him well in this area.
TacklingEaly needs to consistently wrap the ball carrier and bring him to the ground rather than try and deliver a thump. That said, he is an adequate tackler and shouldn't be considered a liability in this area.
Closing BurstEaly has a nice, long stride and above average athletic ability. As a result, he presents as a player that can close the gap between him and the ball carrier/QB. His closing burst is on display on several backside plays that he makes on film.
Power RushEaly is a developing pass rusher who relies on speed more than power to pressure the QB. His bull rush is average to sub-par at this point in his evaluation.
Speed RushEaly, at times, presents as a player that will challenge and win on the edge vs. the OT. In addition, he has a solid understanding of pass rush moves, as a swim, club and rip were all noted during his film study. If he can become more consistent with his get off, he has a chance to emerge as one of the more intriguing speed / pass rushers.
OverallKony Ealy is a player loaded with the scary "P" word: Potential. He has the physical makeup that you look for in a DE prospect. He has above average athletic ability and flashes some "wow" moments at times. Unfortunately, he is still a very raw player that needs to refine his game in order to be considered a first or second day prospect. Ealy is his own worst enemy at this point. His lack of down-to-down consistency causes his film to have a lot of warts. But there's no denying his "potential" and upside. If his 2013 film shows a player that has taken a step forward with his hand-usage and overall motor, he will see an uptick in his draft value. If, however, he maintains the same level of play and technical flaws as he showed in 2012, he would be best suited to return to Missouri for the 2014 college football season.

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