There's something to be said about working your way up a depth chart and finally capitalizing on an opportunity when it comes your way. For UCONN receiver Marcus Easley, he was wondering if he'd run out of time. His opportunity finally came with nine games left in his college career, and Easley didn't make the most of it. He took over.
Over his last nine games Easley (6'2" 210) had 46 catches for 867 yards and eight touchdowns. The stretch included five 100-yard receiving games. To show how he matched up against top talent, Easley had five catches for 81 yards and a touchdown against Rutgers first-round pick Devin McCourty (New England) and a dominant game against South Florida third-round pick Jerome Murphy (St. Louis) when he had eight catches for 122 yard and a score.
The reason he lasted until round four was because he lacks a body of work beyond the 2009 season at the receiver position.
"If he would've had more production he wouldn't have been here at this pick," said Bills scout Tom Roth. "He has a lot of upside, but as a player he's big, fast and strong. He's very good underneath on drags and vertically. He has strong hands to make the catch. He's not a juker like Roscoe, but he has the strength to break tackles."
The UCONN product joins a Bills receiving corps that's crowded, but largely unproven. Aside from Lee Evans there isn't a lot that Buffalo's collection of wideouts can hang their hat on with respect to production and experience in the league.
Easley was a walk on at Connecticut as his high school career somewhat paralleled that of the one he had in college. Playing running back until his senior season, when he shifted to receiver, Easley didn't have the big stats to interest college recruiters.
His academic achievement however, was so good that UCONN offered him an academic scholarship. Easley was a regular student his freshman year in Storrs, but found himself missing football too much. He decided to walk on his sophomore year.
"My first year I didn't see any playing time, but cracked the two deep," said Easley. "My second season I played a little bit of special teams and a little bit on offense, but wasn't really a major contributor. The following season I was a little more active on the field, mainly just blocking and playing on special teams. Then this past season I didn't really see much playing time the first three or four games, but I ended up breaking out on the scene in the Pitt game."
Part of the reason Easley's numbers weren't big prior to the 2009 campaign was due to the presence of running back Donald Brown, a first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts last season. Brown carried the Huskies offensive load in 2007 and 2008, but a new offensive coordinator in 2009 opened up Connecticut's offense enabling Easley to shine.
"I always feel like I had the ability, it was just a lack of opportunity," said Easley. "When they started throwing the ball my way I just tried to make the most of it."
With 4.4 speed Easley was used mainly as an outside receiver lining up at split end for the Huskies. Where the Bills choose to position him remains to be seen. What Buffalo does know is they have a player with quality measurables that is just scratching the surface of what he can do.
"You see the film and you see the vertical speed," said Roth. "He separates. He's a real good blocker so he's got that mentality. Everything is on the come with this kid, which is exciting for us. He really put it all together."
"Hopefully my best football is still to come."