+Unreal first step quickness
+Phenomenal at anticipating the snap
+Good body control
+Gets good leverage
+Fairly lean frame
+Can split the double team
-Playing a bit or of position as a 5 technique at Florida
-Tweener, but would be smart to add bulk
-Can be a bit of a “blind penetrator”
-Consistently wears down as the game goes on
I first realized how special Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley was on Louisville’s first offensive snap of the Sugar Bowl. Dominique Easley got a phenomenal jump off the ball, and I mean phenomenal. That’s normal for Easley. His first step quickness is as good as that of any defensive tackle I’ve ever seen. But to see him get the kind of jump he got on that play is truly special. Keep in mind, a good jump off the ball is dependent on two factors: first step quickness and anticipating the snap of the football. His first step quickness was never in question, but, in that situation, anticipating the snap is pretty difficult. Why? It’s the first snap of the game. It’s not as if Easley has figured out the opponent’s snap count, and knows what call Teddy Bridgewater will make when he wants to snap the football. He’s just reacting to the snap of the football. And he’s still ridiculously explosive. The downside to trying to jump the snap by learning the count is that if the offense uses a hard/long count it will result in an offsides penalty. Almost every offsides penalty you see committed is a result of a guy trying to jump the snap. But a guy that can get such a good jump off the ball with no knowledge of the snap count has a ton of potential as an NFL player.
Easley has average measurables. He’s on the short side at 6’2, and for that reason, I’d be shocked if he was a 5 technique in the NFL like he is at Florida, and he definitely has no place on a 3 man front. At 283lbs, he’s sort of in between defensive end and defensive tackle from a bulk perspective. According to NFLDraftScout.com, he runs a 4.85 40, which is pretty good for his size, but he definitely looks faster than that on film. And speed in pads is a lot more important. He also has a pretty good build. I’ve always said that if a player looks skinnier than his listed weight he’s in good shape, because muscle is much denser than fat. So a player that is 290lbs of nothing but muscle will look skinnier than a guy who is 290lbs of fat. Cincinnati Bengals draft pick Margus Hunt is a quintessential example of this. Easley does have a pretty good build for a guy who is 283lbs.
When evaluating Easley, the first thing that pops out at you is his ridiculous first step quickness. First step quickness among defensive linemen is like a baseball player trying to get a good jump to steal a base. In baseball, the base stealer gets the perfect “jump” by instantaneously reacting to the pitcher making his move to the plate and accelerating to top speed almost immediately. In football, it’s the same thing, except the release of the pitch is the equivalent to the snap of the football. In the football world, Dominique Easley is Billy Hamilton. This guy’s short area quickness puts wide receivers to shame. He’s so quick that opponents can’t use slide protection against him because he’ll be in the backfield by the time the lineman assigned to block him has slid in his direction. If he had any more first step quickness, he’d be deflecting shotgun snaps. Among all the linemen I’ve ever scouted, I think he’s just ahead of former Buccaneers and UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price (widely considered a bust, but has had tons of injury issues). He reacts to the snap of the football faster than the offensive linemen. He crosses the line of scrimmage before some wide receivers and teammates are out of their stances. You really can’t say enough about his first step quickness.
Not to mention, he’s gotten better at avoiding offsides penalties. In the 4 games I’ve seen him this off-season, I’ve seen him commit one offsides penalty, on a play in which he lined up in the neutral zone (against Florida State). To get that kind of jump off the ball without committing offsides penalties is pretty special.
So what does he do after that first step? First of all, the guy reaches top speed as quickly as any lineman I’ve ever seen, and he uses the resulting momentum to get a great initial punch, especially against the run. That initial punch makes him useful and immovable on 3rd/4th and inches situations, because he builds up an incredible amount of momentum in a short period of time. Also, they say the low man wins in football, and, in this sense, he uses his lack of height to his advantage. He gets ideal leverage, and, although short arms can be a problem for many of shorter defensive linemen, he still gets a good initial punch because his tremendous flexibility at the waist allows him to deliver a jarring punch to opposing offensive linemen even though his arms are often shorter than those of the opponent. He knows how to use leverage and his quickness to get great initial and penetrate through his gap. He is strictly a 1 gap specialist but an excellent penetrator. The one disadvantage of using leverage to shed blocks is that it is very difficult to see through blocks. He usually either has his head down or inches from the pads of offensive linemen, and, therefore, usually has no idea what’s happening behind the lineman. He’s what I call “a blind penetrator.” He gets into the backfield frequently but often has no idea where the ball is when he gets there. When he is engaged in a block, a running back may run beside him and he won’t notice before it’s too late. I’ve definitely seen worse, but it’s a bit of a problem. However, he is a solid tackler with very good strength, and he flashes the ability to make arm tackles. He also uses excellent tackling fundamentals, and he has really good body control. He takes good angles to the ball and flashes ridiculous body control when opponents use a hard count. On the downside, he’s pretty average laterally, and occasionally struggles to get outside contain against the run as a result, at least when he’s playing the 5 technique, another reason for him to play the 3 technique. He also doesn’t seem to catch many linemen leaning on their hands and getting them to fall forward.
Easley is pretty good against the pass. He does a surprisingly a good job of getting outside contain as a 5 technique. He draws tons of double teams because of his ridiculous quickness and he’s pretty good at splitting them. His lack of length means he pretty much can’t deflect passes at the line of scrimmage. I’ve seen him use his impressive body control to avoid roughing the passer penalties, and his fundamentals and hand placement are fairly sound in the area. However, he’s probably better against the run than the pass, since most offensive linemen almost immediately take a step back when blocking pass plays from the interior, so his first step quickness makes just a little bit less of a difference because other linemen have a bit more time to get into position.
Easley’s biggest problem is his mediocre stamina. He really seems to use a ton of energy to get a ridiculous first step on every down, and, as a result, looks fairly tired by the time the 3rd quarter rolls around. Coaches will have to rotate him in and out at the NFL level but when I look at a guy like Easley I like the quality of the snaps he plays. Given the choice between a guy who is average for 65 snaps per game and a guy who is dominant for 45 snaps per game, I would choose the latter.
In the end, I love Easley. His first step quickness is absolutely incredible and will help him get a future in the NFL. I really love watching this guy play.
NFL Comparison: Geno Atkins, except he probably will not be as dominant a pass rusher because Atkins’ strength is terrific (phenomenal bull rush), while Easley’s strength is merely good. He also probably isn’t as instinctive. However, with his quickness, he has Warren Sapp potential in a 4-3 under defense (obviously playing the 3 technique).
Grade: 95 (worthy of a mid first round pick)
Projection: 90 (will be a late first or early second round pick)