The versatility to play on every defensive down isn't easy to come by in a draft prospect, and that might be Kony Ealy's golden ticket.
The former Missouri defensive end has been projected as a late first-round pick by NFL Media analysts Bucky Brooks and Charles Davis. Part of the reason for Ealy's lofty draft status is his ability to operate in a variety of roles, and NFL Films producer Greg Cosell likens that versatility to Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett.
"I think that Ealy is probably similar to (Bennett) in the way that he'd be utilized in the NFL. A defensive end in the base 4-3 front, who probably moves inside to defensive tackle in the nickel four-man front, or the dime four-man front," Cosell told Midday 180 Radio. "I think that's the kind of player he is. He's a pretty athletic kid. I wouldn't necessarily call him explosive, he'll need work to become a true pass rusher. But I think he's got the kind of size, movement, athleticism that most teams look for."
Brooks projects the New Orleans Saints to tap Ealy's versatility with the No. 27 overall pick, while Davis' mock has the Cincinnati Bengals taking Ealy three picks earlier at No. 24. At 6-5, 275 pounds, Ealy ran a 4.92 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month, and blew away the defensive line field with a position-best 6.83-second three-cone drill clocking. By comparison, one of the draft's most explosive athletes, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, turned in a three-cone time of 6.95.
That's the sort of athleticism required of bigger defenders who want to play on third down in a passing league.