Summary: One of the biggest reasons for Florida's disaster of a 2013 season was the loss of Easley a few games into the season to a torn ACL suffered in practice. Prior to the injury, scouts told WalterFootball.com that Easley was going to be grading out as a late first-round pick. He was only in the latter portion of Round 1 because of his size.
Easley led the way for the Gators' defense to put on impressive displays against Miami and Tennessee. He caused a lot of havoc at the point of attack and created a lot of negative plays. Against the Hurricanes, the senior drew three holding penalties along with making a lot of plays in the backfield.
Easley was in the running with Jadeveon Clowney for the best get-off in college football, but unlike Clowney, Easley displayed a non-stop motor and never took plays off. In just a three-game season, he had five tackles (four solo) with two tackles for a loss. Easley was one of the best defensive linemen in the nation and on his way to an All-SEC and All-American season.
At the end of the 2012 season, Easley started coming on for the Gators. He recorded 26 tackles and a team-leading four sacks for the year. The junior also had 8.5 tackles for a loss and one pass batted.
Easley played defensive tackle in 2011. The sophomore flashed truly disruptive speed at the point of attack, recording 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. He suffered a torn ACL late in 2011, and that could have contributed to him starting slowly in 2012. Easley was one of the final superstar recruits that Urban Meyer landed before leaving the program.
The Gators moved Easley around their defensive line from end and tackle during his three seasons of playing time. Coming off the ACL, it sounds doubtful that he will be able to do much participating at the Combine.
Easley is extremely fast at the point of attack. He fires his gap and quickly gets penetration into the backfield. Once Easley gains leverage, he is tough to stop since he has the strength to shed blocks and maintain his balance with blockers pushing on him. Easley consistently blew up runs in the backfield and got a lot of pressure on the quarterback. He is very strong for his size. It wouldn't be surprising if his sack numbers increase in the NFL.
At the next level, Easley could play end in a 3-4 defense. His best fit could come as a three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 system on passing downs and playing defensive end on running downs. Easley's ability to pressure the quarterback could set up a lot of sacks for the edge-rushers.
Player Comparison: Glenn Dorsey. Prior to the knee injury, Easley was a disruptive force at the point of attack; similar to Dorsey in his LSU days. Dorsey (6-1, 297) is a little heavier than Easley, but both are quick and strong for their size. Signing with the 49ers has reinvigorated Dorsey, and he has played much better for them than he did with the Chiefs.
In terms of style of play, Easley could fit in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. Dorsey hasn't played in a 4-3, but has always looked like he would fit that system better. It wouldn't be a surprise if Easley proves to be similar.
NFL Matches: Cincinnati, San Francisco, New England, Denver
Cincinnati could lose Michael Johnson in free agency. Carlos Dunlap and Margus Hunt could be their starters, but the Bengals would need a third end to rotate into the game.
San Francisco could use understudy for Justin Smith. Easley and Tank Carradine could be a great tandem to develop behind Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. With the drafting of Carradine and Marcus Lattimore, the 49ers have proven they're willing to select players coming back from knee injuries. Just like Carradine and Lattimore, Easley was looking like a first-round pick before he got hurt.
The Patriots could use more youth on the defensive line and love Florida products. Easley could play end on running downs and move inside to tackle in passing situations. With his experience playing 3-4 end, 4-3 end and 4-3 tackle, he would be a great fit for Bill Belichick.
Denver lost Elvis Dumervil last offseason and could lose Robert Ayers in free agency. Even if Ayers is re-signed, the Broncos need a replacement for Dumervil as Shaun Philips is just a veteran stop-gap. Easley would also offer some protection for the interior line if Derek Wolfe continues to deal with health issues.