Summary: The Missouri Tigers took the SEC by storm and were a surprise winner of the SEC East in 2013. They were led by a tough defense that featured a potent edge rush from Kony Ealy and Michael Sam. Throughout the season, Ealy produced big games against good competition.
There were a number of superb games against weak opponents like Kentucky and Florida, but Ealy finished the year well. While the Missouri defense was lit up by Auburn, Ealy showed up big with two forced fumbles, three tackles for a loss, one sack and five tackles. From start to finish in the Cotton Bowl, the junior ended his college career with a big-time presence against Oklahoma State. Ealy had two sacks, six tackles and a pass batted. He recorded 9.5 sacks, 43 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, six passes broken up and an interception for the year.
As a sophomore, Ealy contributed a decent 2012 season with 37 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, seven passes batted and a forced fumble next to Sheldon Richardson.
Ealy has an impressive combination of size and speed. He was tough at the point of attack on run downs and showed his pass-rushing prowess with speed and strength off the edge.
As a pro, Ealy looks like an ideal fit as a base end in a 4-3 defense. He is a tough run defender who can set the edge and can get after the quarterback. He isn't a pure speed or power rusher, but he's a well-balanced player who can beat tackles with quickness or strength. Ealy also has the ability to move inside to get after the quarterback. Rushing against guards in passing situations could be the most effective use of Ealy in the NFL.
Ealy also could fit as a 3-4 defensive end. He has the length and strength, but any 3-4 team would probably want him to add some weight for that role.
Ealy should be a late first-round or early second-round pick. He has the tools to start quickly and be a quality contributor in the NFL. He could have some double-digit-sack seasons while also being a good run defender.
Player Comparison: Justin Tuck. Ealy's game reminds me of Tuck. They both have size and length on the edge with the ability to move inside in passing situations. Tuck (6-5, 268) has had a good career since being a third-round pick by the Giants in the 2005 NFL Draft. Ealy should obviously be chosen earlier. Another player Ealy is similar to is current Buccaneer and former Bengal Michael Johnson.
NFL Matches: Chicago, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Cincinnati, Kansas City, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle
The Bears, Cowboys and Steelers all could draft for the defensive line, but going in the top 20 seems too rich for Ealy. If any of those teams trade down - and a few of them would like to - Ealy could be a target.
Cincinnati lost Michael Johnson in free agency, while Geno Atkins is coming off a serious injury. Adding an inside/outside defensive lineman makes sense for the Bengals, but they may not want to do that in the first round. Cincinnati has done a superb job of selecting good defensive linemen on Day 2.
The Chiefs let Tyson Jackson walk in free agency and could use another five-technique. Ealy could fit, and Andy Reid has drafted heavy on the defensive line in his career.
San Francisco could also consider Ealy as an eventual replacement for Justin Smith, who won't be around forever. Ealy would be a good understudy.
The Broncos could use more talent at defensive end even though they signed DeMarcus Ware. They lost Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers and Shaun Philips over the past couple of offseasons, so adding Ealy to go with Ware could make sense for Denver.
Seattle could also consider defensive end help. Chris Clemsons and Red Bryant left in free agency, while Cliff Avril isn't signed long-term. Ealy could be a partner with Michael Bennett for Seattle.