2014 NFL Draft Prospect to Watch: Florida DL Dominique Easley

Florida defensive lineman Dominique Easley will have a chance to emerge as a star and a first-round prospect in his senior season. (Photo: Kim Klement — USA Today Sports)

BBD Staff Writer: Joe Marino

Dominique Easley was highly touted coming out of high school. The Staten Island, New York native was rated a five-star prospect by both Scout.com and Rivals.com. Both sources listed him as the No. 2-ranked defensive tackle in the country for his class, behind only fellow Florida commit Sharrif Floyd.

Entering his senior season with the Florida Gators, Easley has been a productive player for the Gators, but hasn’t quite emerged into the star he was expected to be out of high school.

Easley is listed at 6’2’’ and 280 pounds. He has started 23 games over the past two seasons for the Gators defense. Florida is known to rotate as many as 10 defensive linemen in any given game, but Easley has been one of the key pieces in that formidable defensive line rotation.

Easley lines up in multiple spots for the Gator defense. He primarily lines up at end, but can be seen playing 3-technique defensive tackle and over the center at times.

I like his fit best as a 3-4 end or 4-3 tackle at the next level. The team who selects Easley will be getting an extremely versatile defender.

Why You Should Watch Easley in 2013

Easley has incredible short-area quickness and his quickness off the snap is extremely good. His first step is very strong. He gives blockers fits off the snap as he is usually able to control them at the point of attack. This leads to regular double-teams, which Easley handles very well.

He plays with good leverage which he uses to consistently win battles. He plays with consistent and solid technique. He uses his hands effectively and does not allow blockers to get under his pads.

Easley has very good strength and is able to penetrate the line of scrimmage. He holds his ground firmly against blockers and does not get pushed around. His technique, leverage, hand usage and strength make him a very solid player against the run.

He is athletic enough to make plays as backside defender. He has a very consistent motor and his effort is rarely questioned.

Easley is a very solid interior pass-rusher with a good rip move and bull rush. He can also pressure the quarterback by just using his quickness off the ball to beat offensive lineman.

What Easley Must Prove in 2013

Easley doesn’t have great bend and flexibility at this point. He is not a dynamic edge rusher and he doesn’t have ideal length. He can overcome that with his sound technique, strength and quickness at the college level, but those traits may be difficult to overcome in the NFL.

Easley isn’t an overly flashy player.  He is extremely solid but doesn’t truly take over games. Now that Floyd and Lerentee McCray are out of the Gators’ defensive line rotation, Easley will have his chance to prove he can lead and dominate. He needs to knock off the “rotational guy” label that is easy to give Florida defensive linemen.

Unfortunately due to the way Florida utilizes their defensive lineman, Easley doesn’t have a consistent fit that you can study on tape. He lines up at end, nose guard and tackle. His size indicates that he is a bit of a “tweener.” I want to see him carve out a niche.

Easley jumps offsides far too frequently. He is eager to win battles, but needs to learn to hold his water better and not cost his team five yards.

Projecting Easley’s Draft Stock

2013 will provide Easley the platform to show he can dominate. The Gators will be counting on him to anchor a relatively young defensive line. He will be one of only two senior starters on the entire defense along with safety Jaylen Watkins. The Gators only have four returning starters on defense.

Easley will be an attractive commodity for 3-4 teams looking for a 5-technique end, and that appears to be his most natural role. He can also project as an undersized 3-technique tackle in a 4-3 scheme.

Easley has been very solid over the past two seasons. It will be interesting to see how Easley elevates his game this season and if he proves himself as an every-down playmaker. I have a second-round grade on him right now with definite first-round upside should he have a strong senior campaign.

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Defensive Linemen, Dominique Easley, Florida, Prospects to Watch

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