2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown – Dominique Easley, DT Florida

Jan 02, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) carries the ball past Florida Gators defensive lineman Dominique Easley (2) during the first half of the Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Dominique Easley is a tremendous athletic specimen for the Florida Gators but he has not been able to put everything together as a player on the field yet.  In the Gator defense, he has played as a defensive tackle and end in even fronts and a defensive end in odd.  The potential is there for him to be a tremendous player but it has not clicked for him yet.  In his junior year, Easley had 16 solo tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, a fumble recovery and a pass deflection.

While Easley has struggled to be the player his potential suggests he could, a breakthrough might have been reached during the time between the end of the regular season and the bowl game against Louisville.  Easley was a completely different player in that game and was a dynamic player that made a number of splash plays including getting 3.5 of his 8.5 tackles for loss on the season.  It remains to be seen if that was a genuine understanding of what he needed to address and embracing it or a one game revelation remains to be seen, but the reasons why are there on the tape.  Easley has the athleticism to go much earlier and if those strides he made in the Sugar Bowl were a preview of things to come, he could easily find himself in the top 100.  If not, he is a day three pick trying to get the light to go on in the NFL.

Vitals & Build

Easley is listed at 6’2” 280lbs and is a remarkable athlete.  He is incredibly agile and explosive with good speed, but his body control can be less than ideal at times.  Easley appears to have some solid strength but has to do a better job of taking advantage of it.  He appears to have a good amount of room to continue adding potential to his frame but the question is at what point will he start losing athleticism.  Easley might be best suited to play around 290-295lbs.

Snap Anticipation & First Step

Easley is incredibly explosive off the snap and tends to be right on with the snap count.  He is always working to get an edge and guess the count, but at times he will get caught jumping and get called for being offsides.

His first step is terrific and he is able to cover a good amount of ground while picking up speed and momentum.  The problem is that most of the time, Easley stands straight up out of his stance, so he is showing an amazing amount of power but some of it is going in the wrong direction.  In the bowl game against Louisville, Easley appeared to make an adjustment and fired out much lower, so he was that much quicker while staying lower maintaining leverage and allowing him to show off his functional strength.  The results were impressive.  If that was a hint of things to come, he could be extremely impressive.  If he gets back into old habits, he will be explosive but it will not do much for him.

Block Shedding

When it comes to block shedding, it all depends on where Easley’s pad level is.  The times where Easley comes off the ball and gives up all of his leverage, he has to win on his quickness and basically be unblocked or he is ineffective and will get stopped by inferior talents.  When he gets behind his pads and plays lower to the ground, he can be a dynamic presence on the defensive line.  He has impressive strength and can use a bull rush, push-pull move, and win with quickness either around the edge or with agility shooting gaps.  Combination of using his strength and being a lower target make him a far more difficult player for opponents to try to compete against.

Run Stopping

Pad level and leverage determine what Easley is able to do as a run defender.  When he plays high, he is reduced to trying to hold up at the point of attack and enabling teammates to make the play.  With his pad level lower and better leverage, he can hold up at the point of attack with far more ease but is also a threat to get penetration and make plays in the backfield.  He goes from being a one gap clogger and becomes a dynamic player.

Easley’s agility is impressive and he can shoot into the backfield quickly but he also has the ability to work down the line laterally and make plays all over the field.  He possesses a good amount of range as a defensive lineman.

Pass Rushing

Like with everything else, it depends on his leverage and pad level.  When he fires out with low pad level, he is faster and harder to block for opponents, giving him an advantage.  He also has more power and can take better advantage of it with ability to shove opponents back and create space to operate.  Easley has better body control and works better in small areas, which enables him to make plays on the quarterback.

He has the ability to contribute as an agile, undersized three-technique who can be a terror with quickness or he can be a dynamic edge rusher with a good ability to win with power or bending around the edge.  Easley also has excellent closing speed and can really surprise opponents with just how quickly he can get to the quarterback and from what distance.  It all comes down to his pad level and understanding that he needs to play low.

System Fit

Easley’s athleticism and strength could be best suited to play in a 3-4 as an end but his height is not ideal for it, so it could depend on arm length or a team willing to look past that flaw.  This could be less of an issue in a 1-gap system, but he could also kick inside and be a rush tackle on passing downs.  The scheme that Easley will certainly get a lot of looks will be as a 3-technique defensive tackle in the 4-3.  Whether as a starter or depth, his athleticism gives him the ability to wreak havoc on interior linemen who might otherwise struggle with quickness and athleticism.

2013 Schedule

Sat, Aug. 31 vs. Toledo
Sat, Sept. 7 at Miami
Sat, Sept. 21 vs. Tennessee
Sat, Sept. 28 at Kentucky
Sat, Oct. 5 vs. Arkansas
Sat, Oct. 12 at LSU
Sat, Oct. 19 at Missouri
Sat, Nov. 2 vs. Georgia
Sat, Nov. 9 at Vanderbilt
Sat, Nov. 16 at South Carolina
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. Georgia Southern
Sat, Nov. 30 vs. Florida State

Notable Games

The second and third games of the year for Easley should be good tests for him whether he plays as a tackle or end.  Both Tennessee and Miami have some talented guards and tackles that could allow him to show off some newfound technique and break out as a player or reveal that the game against Louisville was a fluke rather than genuine improvement.  The regular season finale against Florida State could be of similar importance as it could be the culmination of everything Easley has learned and his last game to show everything off in front of the home crowd.

NFL Comparison

Easley’s game could be reminiscent of Henry Melton of the Chicago Bears.  Melton was a late bloomer much like Easley and did not really show much at Texas until his senior year.  After a year of getting acclimated in the NFL, Melton became a dynamic inside presence in the Bears front that could get pressure on the quarterback in addition to playing the run.  Easley could be the same type of player if he can be consistent and take advantage of his athleticism game to game.

Draft Projection

Easley’s athleticism is tantalizing but his technique will ultimately be the determining factor for his draft stock.  If he can build off of the Sugar Bowl, he could not only be substantially improved for the NFL but also be poised to have a breakout season for the Gators.  His athleticism has never been a question, but that game just how scary he could be when he uses it properly.  The difference for the NFL could be the difference between being atop 100 pick and being a third day pick.  Easley could be ready to turn into the player Florida envisioned they were getting when they recruited him as well as position himself to be a dynamic defensive line presence.

Topics: 2014 Mock Draft, 2014 NFL Draft, Defensive Ends, Defensive Tackles, Florida Gators Football

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