It’s unclear how many professional football players actually watch the sport in their free time, though it’s likely more than the public would suspect.
However, all Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley knows is that he isn’t one of them.
“I don’t really watch football,” Easley said at the Combine, when asked who he compares himself to in the NFL. “I just try to be who I am.”
In fact, in a further moment of candor, Easley — a potential second-day pick in this year’s draft — told reporters that he’s never watched a full game from start to finish.
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“I might change it to a cartoon or something,” he said. “I like to play. Just because you’re not watching football doesn’t mean you don’t love football. I have another life, also.”
Easley said that other life revolves around spending time with his 1-year-old son, Dominique II.
But don’t get it twisted — the 6-foot-2, 288-pounder loves the game, and really, all one has to do is turn on the film to see that. Few defensive linemen play harder than the athletic Easley, who had 72 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in college was once rated as high as No. 9 on ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay’s big board before a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee ended his senior season after only three games.
That injury, not to mention the fact he also tore the ACL in his left knee in 2011, has led to some durability concerns that have effected his draft stock.
“He’s a talented pass rusher, and his success against elite competition speaks for itself,” CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rang said. “The durability concerns are a concern, but (in the third round), I think he’s a risk worth taking.”
The good news for Easley, who said he felt about 80 percent recovered at his pro day on April 17, is that his particular set of skills could not be more in demand. The NFL is now a passing league, and defenders who provide interior pressure like Easley are at a premium.
In fact, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey recently agreed with the notion that because of this, more teams are even willing to bend on scheme to find players to rush the passer.
For instance, last year the New York Jets, who run a 3-4 defense, took super-quick Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, a prototype tackle in a 4-3 defense, in the first round. Richardson proceeded to record 78 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks and was defensive rookie of the year.
“I think the game has truly been extended out, the speed of the game has gotten a lot faster,” Dorsey said. “Anytime you can generate internal pressure with the pass rush, I think that’s critical because it helps those defensive backs in the secondary as well. So, anytime you can get an interior pass rusher, there is some added value within that pick.”
Dorsey also said that while the Chiefs run a 3-4 defense, which historically relies on old-school five-technique, two-gap run stuffers at defensive end, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton prefers to use a three-technique player at one of the interior spots, someone who can get upfield and rush the passer.
“I’ve always had a cookie cutter image of what a 3-4 defensive end is supposed to be like, but in Coach Sutton’s defense, he has a big five-technique end and a three-technique defensive end; two distinctly different players to play those positions to succeed,” Dorsey said.
Easley obviously fits the three-technique role. Problem is, the Chiefs already signed Vance Walker to play the role, and moreover, they don’t have a second-round pick, which — with a team that has so many needs — can complicate any desire to take the best player available in the third round.
However, there are a lot of other teams that can use Easley’s motor and athleticism, and for that reason, Rang suspects the still-healing defensive tackle who loves the game but doesn’t watch it at home could still be in demand.
“I could see him going as high as the second round, which is a little rich for my blood considering two ACLs, but I could see somebody doing it because this is not a very good class for interior pass rushers,” Rang said.Top 10 prospects for the Chiefs 1. Aaron Donald, 6-1, 285, Pittsburgh Bio:
Three-year starter who had 59 tackles, 28 1/2 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in 2013. Is 22 years old. 32 5/8-inch arms. 9 7/8-inch hands. 4.68 40-yard dash. 35 bench reps. 32-inch vertical jump. 116-inch broad jump. 7.11 3-cone drill. 4.39 20-yard shuttle.Consensus:
Prototype three-technique tackle is incredibly productive and disruptive. Size is only concern but he dominated all comers at the Senior Bowl and checks all the boxes. Has excellent quickness of the snap and plays hard. Has 29 1/2 career sacks.2. Ra’Shede Hageman, 6-6, 310, Minnesota Bio:
Two-year starter who 38 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and two sacks in 2013. Is 23 years old. 34 1/4-inch arms. 10 1/4-inch hands. 5.02 40-yard dash. 32 bench reps. 35-inch 1/2 vertical. 114-inch broad. 7.87n 3-cone drill. 4.50 20-yard shuttle.Consensus:
Excellent size, length and workout numbers. Has basketball background. Could play inside in multiple schemes. Old for a rookie (24). Motor runs hot and cold. Has immense upside but needs to be coached up.3. Stephon Tuitt, 6-5, 304, Notre Dame Bio:
Two-year starter who 49 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 7 1/2 sacks in 2013. Is 20 years old. 34 3/4-inch arms. 10-inch hands. Did not work out as he recovers from left foot surgery.Consensus:
Prototype five-technique. Excellent size and length. Is only 20 years, has plenty of room to develop. Has the strength to anchor and also has excellent pass-rush production (19 1/2 sacks in ’12 and ’13). Was better in 2012. Has been nicked up for the last two years.4. Kony Ealy, 6-4, 273, Missouri Bio:
Two-year starter who had 43 tackles, 14 1/2 for loss and 9 1/2 sacks in 2013. Is 22 years old. 34 1/4-inch arms. 9 1/2-inch hands. 4.92 40-yard dash. 22 bench reps. 31-inch vertical. 114-inch broad. 6.83 3-cone drill. 4.45 20-yard shuttle.Consensus:
Good length and has the frame to add more weight. Started at defensive end at Mizzou but athleticism could make him an intriguing inside option if he gains bulk. Has improved every season. Racked up career-high 9 1/2 sacks in 2013. Needs to add strength and be more consistent.5 . Dominique Easley, 6-2, 288, Florida Bio:
Three-year starter who had five tackles and two tackles for loss in 2013 before his season came to an end with a torn ACL and meniscus. Had best season in 2012, when he had 26 tackles, 8 1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks. 32 7/8-inch arms. 9 3/4-inch hands. Did not work out as he recovers from knee surgery.Consensus:
Prototype three-technique with excellent quickness of the snap. Plays with great effort. Shows pass-rush ability. Is best shooting gaps. Has had ACL injuries in both knees.6. Ed Stinson, 6-3, 287, Alabama Bio:
Two-year starter who had 42 tackles, two tackles for loss and 1 1/2 sacks in 2013. 33 3/4-inch arms. 9 3/8-inch hands. 4.98 40-yard dash. 27 bench reps. 28-inch vertical. 108-inch broad. 8.07 3-cone drill. 4.75 20-yard shuttle.Consensus:
Projects as a stout five-technique in a 3-4 scheme but can play nose, too. Is strong and shows the ability to anchor and two-gap. Plays hard. Likely a two-down player. Isn’t very fast or agile.7. DaQuan Jones, 6-4, 332, Penn State Bio:
Two-year starter who 56 tackles, 11 1/2 tackles for loss and three sacks in 2013. Is 22 years old. 33 1/2-inch arms. 9 5/8-inch hands. 5.35 40-yard dash. 25 bench reps. 27 1/2-inch vertical. 101-inch broad. 7.73 3-cone drill. 4.78 20-yard shuttle.Consensus:
Big body with good length who primarily attacked gaps in college. Shows OK athleticism and good quickness of the snap but can be moved on double teams. Limited pass-rush productivity.8. Anthony Johnson, 6-2, 308, LSU Bio:
First-year starter who had 35 tackles, nine tackles for loss and three sacks in 2013. Is 21 years old. 33-inch arms. 10 3/8-inch hands. 5.24 40-yard dash. 20 bench reps. 24 1/2-inch vertical. 102-inch broad. 7.93 3-cone drill. 4.83 20-yard shuttle.Consensus:
Big body who projects as a three-technique. Good quickness of the snap and has a closing burst, but needs to get much stronger at the point of attack and work on his pass-rush skills. Must be more consistent.9. Will Sutton, 6-0, 303, Arizona State Bio:
Three-year starter who 48 tackles, 13 1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks in 2013. Is 22 years old. 31 1/4 -inch arms. 10-inch hands. 5.36 40-yard dash. 24 bench reps. 28 1/2 vertical. 99-inch broad. 7.93 3-cone drill. 4.82 20-yard shuttle. Two-time Pac 12 defensive player of the year.Consensus:
Bit of a projection because he gained a lot of bad weight in 2013, but he played his tail off in 2012, when he had 23 1/2 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. Short arms but very quick first step. Can be disruptive three-technique. Has 20 ½ career sacks so he can get to the quarterback. Inconsistent effort in 2013 due to weight issues. Needs to get stronger.10. Brent Urban, 6-7, 295, Virginia Bio:
Twi-year starter who had 40 tackles, 11 1/2 tackles for loss and one sack in 2013. 34 1/4-inch arms. 9 3/4-inch hands. Did not work out due to high ankle sprain.Consensus:
Huge frame with great length, looks like a prototype five-technique. Shows the ability to two gap. Plays hard. Has limited pass-rush production but knocks down a ton of passes. Significant durability concerns will hurt his stock — has been injured several times since he entered college.*All evaluations and rankings are based largely on multiple draft profiles ― thanks to NFL.com, ESPN.com, CBSSports.com and DraftNasty’s 2014 NFL Draft Manual ― interviews with draft analysts and the author’s own film evaluations. Measurements and testing results are from the combine and pro days, according to the resources listed above.