Missouri was able to boast a number of impressive pass rushers this year after having Sheldon Richardson last year. Kony Ealy really came into his own this season and helped them find an unexpected level of success on defense. Ealy, playing from the defensive end spot and also being used as a defensive tackle in spots was able to play with a ton of speed. His pass rushing is what he is known for with good reason but his effort and motor to chase down plays is impressive as well.
For the NFL, Ealy’s ability to rush the passer as well as his size and potential could make him an extremely attractive player. He should be able step in as an edge rusher immediately but has to get better when it comes to having opponents run the ball right at him. The size and strength suggests he should be able to learn and excel in that area but it still needs to happen. Ealy warrants a first round pick and his talent and upside could have a team take him in the top 10.
Vitals & Build
Ealy is listed at 6’5” 275lbs with an impressive build for the position. He has a thick trunk, but seems to have a good amount of potential in terms of building his arm and length strength. Ealy has shown to have remarkable quickness, burst and outright speed. On top of that, while Missouri is not afraid to rely on their defensive end rotation, Ealy plays a lot of snaps and shows a terrific motor, both in his effort he brings to each play but also in terms of finishing them. Depending on where he actually measures, Ealy seems to have a remarkable amount of physical potential.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
Ealy gets off of the ball pretty well. He has a stance that can make it difficult for opponents to dig him out, going with a 4-point stance that looks like a diving dog stance. He anticipates the snap well and can get a good first step, being aggressive and attacking right at near the opponent. He is willing to go right at them whether he is lined up at end or inside at tackle.
Ealy can fire off the ball with a good pad level but will drift up from time to time. When he does, he makes it easier for opponents to get into his body and block him. The times he maintains a low pad level, he has better leverage and is generally more effective.
Ealy is incredibly active when it comes to taking on and shedding blocks. He demonstrates quick, active hands that make it difficult for opponents to get a bead on him to block. Ealy does a nice job of avoiding getting blocked in the first place, allowing him keep his momentum and keep working to the football. When he is blocked, he has a difficult time getting out of it and when his momentum is stopped, he can be countered effectively.
Ealy has some trouble with stopping the run. In terms of range and running down plays from behind, he is phenomenal and is not only does he have the athleticism to work in that capacity, but he is relentless in pursuing the play. He has far more trouble playing the run straight up and being the side where the opponent runs the ball.
Ealy is such a momentum player that if he can get a start and keep motion going, he is tough to stop, but that is a little more of a problem when his side is where they run the ball. When he has good pad level, he can hold up at the point of attack, but when he gets too high, he is driven off the ball. Many times when he has picked up momentum, it allows opponents to open the door for him to take himself out of the play or shove him in the direction his momentum is going right past the play.
Ealy has the quickness and ability to slip through seams in the play and make a quick play in the backfield. Overall, he has a tough time and this is going to be a work in progress for him as he moves into the NFL. That is a little frustrating given his size, but it also gives teams hope because he does have the size and strength to do the job.
Ealy is dangerous as an edge rusher because he has an array of moves he is willing to use and is always taking the fight to the opponent. Right from the snap, he is attacking up the field and eating up ground, knowing that the opponent can be afraid to punch because he is quick enough to avoid them and get into the backfield.
Ealy will line up outside but he does not really take a wide angle to up the field. He tends to go forward and maintain an angle where he is giving the opponent the option to attack.
Ealy is extremely comfortable attacking both to the outside as well as going inside either by his own choice or on a stunt.
He has shown he has incredible burst, speed and quickness that allows him to take advantage to any lapse by the opponent and he does not waste much motion getting into the backfield. Not only will he use his hands as he goes up the field, but he is able to use a nice dip move to get under the opponent and flatten out to the quarterback.
Early has not shown a ton in terms of power and willingness to use it. When he does, he tends to turn his shoulder and ram into them, knocking them into the backfield. Ealy has strength and shows it with decently heavy hands, but it is mostly to prevent opponents from getting into his body as opposed to trying to drive them into the backfield.
Ealy is scary when he does get into the backfield, because he is so fast. His closing speed is remarkable and he can track quarterbacks down rolling away from his side of the field. He has great body control as well, so when he has the opportunity, he will rarely miss.
His experience as a rush tackle is valuable and is probably why is he is so comfortable in attacking with tight angles when he is outside as well as making him comfortable going to the inside. It also might be why he is not as comfortable using power as when he plays in the middle to rush the passer, he is doing it all with quickness and keeping the opponent out of his body.
When he is not going to get to the quarterback, Ealy does a nice job of getting his hands up and trying to deflect passes and has found a good amount of success. He was able to find himself an interception as a result and scored a touchdown on the play.
Ealy’s best fit is as a base end in a 4-3 and he is probably best suited to play on the right side because of his lack of polish as a run defender as well as that being where the bulk of his experience lies. He certainly could play on the left side as well in terms of his traits as well as sliding inside to rush the passer for teams that want to get more pass rushers on the field.
Ealy could conceivably play as a 5-technique end in the 3-4 because of his length and size for the position, but it would be a tough fit unless he is in a 1-gap system and still would not be ideal. If he becomes more stout at the point, he could be a nice player there because he could still get to the quarterback from there. They would also be able to kick him inside and rush from a defensive tackle spot.
Ealy’s game could be similar to that of Chandler Jones. Jones entered the league as more of a pure pass rusher and project but made an impact early for the New England Patriots after being selected in the first round. Ealy has had the opportunity to showcase more of his talent on the field which could be the reason he ends up going higher than Jones did.
Kony Ealy is an impressive prospect because of his ability to rush the passer, his pure energy level and his physical ability. He needs to do a better job when opponents run at him, but he should be able to make an early impact as a pass rusher while possessing the size and strength to be a good run defender if he wants to learn. In addition, he needs to work on shedding blocks once he is engaged. Ealy warrants a first round pick but could end up going in the top 10 because of his potential.
Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com