|AP Photo/Tim Sharp|
|Missouri's Michael Sam and Kony Ealy combined to record 21 sacks during the 2013 season.|
Missouri defensive linemen Michael Sam and Kony Ealy wreaked havoc in the SEC during the 2013 season.
Sam, who just wrapped up his senior year, won the SEC defensive player of the year award, joining the likes of Jarvis Jones, Morris Claiborne and Patrick Peterson. In fact, the last seven players to win that award have gone on to be drafted in the first round.
However, Ealy, a junior, will be entering this year's draft, too. He didn't have as many sacks (9.5 to 11.5) or take home as many honors as Sam, but after watching them at practice, on film and live in the Cotton Bowl, I like Ealy better than Sam as a pro prospect.
Both are really promising prospects. They bring good speed off the edge and hold the point of attack vs. the run better than you think.
Ealy, who rushes from the inside in certain packages, is a little stouter, though, and his pass rush is just as effective as Sam's. Before the season began, Ealy was the more highly touted and feared guy by offenses. Protections were geared to stopping him early in the season, which allowed Sam to get off to an unbelievable start. He obviously worked hard in the offseason and when an opportunity arose, he capitalized on it, recording 9.5 sacks in the first eight games of the season. Sam had just two sacks -- the second of which helped clinch the Cotton Bowl win -- in the final six games.
Ealy has been consistent all the way through.
Ealy finished the season a lot stronger than Sam and, at this point, it looks like he has better potential at the next level, potentially as a 3-4 outside 'backer.
Both Sam and Ealy are guys we'll be talking about a lot leading up to the draft.
Missouri RB Henry Josey announced earlier this week that he will enter this year's draft, and I think it's right move for him. He was very impressive in his return from an awful knee injury that sidelined him for all of the 2012 season to rush for 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013. The thing that impressed me about him is that when you've had that kind of an injury, it usually takes a season before a player hits his stride again. He came back and I thought his vision had improved as a runner. He still flashes and gets north and south pretty quickly. I didn't see any diminished speed. He's obviously a tough guy. I don't think he had any choice but to come out. It would be too big of a risk for a running back who has had his injury history to go back to school again. He gave Missouri everything he could.
Cotton Bowl standouts
Two offensive linemen caught my eye in the Cotton Bowl -- Oklahoma State OG Parker Graham and Missouri OLT Justin Britt, who did a good job against a pretty good pass rusher in Tyler Johnson. Both are big, agile seniors and I think both will fit best at guard at the next level.
Up-and-comer to keep in mind
Here's a name to remember for next season -- Jimmy Bean. The Oklahoma State defensive end just finished his first season as a starter in impressive fashion, delivering in all aspects in the Cotton Bowl. He was noticeable and sharp all the way through, making seven tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss.
Follow Charles Davis on Twitter @CFD22.