With more teams committing to pass-heavy offensive schemes, there is more pressure on defensive coordinators to find guys who can get to the quarterback. Not only do most teams now look for edge rushers, but interior linemen who specialize in rushing the quarterback have become increasingly important pieces of an NFL defense. That is exactly what you get with a healthy Dominique Easley.
After he suffered an ACL injury at the end of his sophomore season, there were questions as to whether the former Florida DL would be able to get back to the same dominant form he showed flashes of prior to the injury.
His junior and senior seasons removed those doubts, as he became one of the most disruptive defenders in the SEC. Easley was on his way to an All-American type of season before suffering another ACL injury in September of his senior season.
Once again, he has to prove he can come back better than ever.
"I mean, I tore my ACL in 2011, [and] I got faster in 2013. So when I get back from this ACL, it's going to make me nothing but faster," Easley said. "It's frustrating, but everything happens for a reason. God has a plan. He puts you in certain situations for a reason."
Easley has experience at just about every position along the line. At 6-foot-2 and 288 pounds, he is seen as a prototypical 4-3 three-technique (outside shoulder of guard), but he believes he can play anywhere.
"I can play a five-technique (outside shade of a tackle) [in a 3-4 scheme]," Easley said.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock listed Easley in his top five defensive tackle rankings as recently as February, but in more recent iterations has left him off of his list.
"Dominique Easley is injured with the second ACL and I don't think he's going to go until about the third round or so," Mayock said.
It is easy to see Easley's upside. He has arguably the quickest first step of anyone in the draft, often engaging offensive linemen before his teammates have even taken their hand out of the dirt.
Easley wreaked havoc on the Louisville offensive line in the Sugar Bowl as a junior, and then did so again early in the 2013 season against Miami, two of his most recent performances before his latest ACL injury. Based on those two games alone, Easley was looking well on his way to being a top-15 pick.
But Easley is not a complete player, even when disregarding the injury concerns. If he doesn't gain an advantage on his first step, he has not always shown an ability to get off of blocks and make a play on a ball carrier. Easley is also only seen as a strictly one-gap defender who does not have the size or attributes to control two gaps.
Because of the injury, Easley has not been able to impress NFL executives on the field via the combine and private workouts. Instead, he has to impress them in an interview room - a place where he could excel. Easley is an interesting, well-rounded guy who understands that football is not the only thing in his life.
"I like to play [football]. I don't like to watch it on TV," Easley said. "I might change it to a cartoon or something."
Some may read into those comments thinking Easley lacks a passion for the game, but that's not the case.
"Just because you're not watching football doesn't mean you don't love football. I have another life also," Easley said.