Florida’s Dominique Easley one to watch this year

September 11th, 2013 | Written by Rob Staton

Sometimes things happen for a reason.

Yesterday I wrote the following:

Louis Nix is a stud at Notre Dame and could be a top ten pick at the all important nose tackle position. After that, the options aren’t great. Some people like Will Sutton at Arizona State but I’m not a big fan. I’ve not seen enough of LSU’s Anthony Johnson to judge but watching the Tigers last year, nobody looked as good as 2012 first rounder Michael Brockers.

Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan is the only other player (defensive tackle) currently on the radar until others emerge.

I didn’t expect a player to emerge later that same night.

Really, there’s no true emergence in this case. It’s more a case of a guy (me) who happens to write a blog about the NFL Draft finally getting around to noticing a certain prospect who deserves attention.

Because a lot of people know about Florida’s Dominique Easley already.

And it’s time he got some attention.

When I watched Easley’s performance against Miami last night, I got excited.

Excited enough to fantasise about him playing against the Niners on Sunday.

(We could probably use him)

There are a few things I want to see in a defensive tackle. Easley pretty much ticks every box.

I want to see a high motor. He has that.

I want to see evidence of a nasty streak. Evidence that a guy just lives and breathes the war that is line play. Somebody who thrives on the scrappy, dirty, horrible nature of football at its purest sense. In the trenches.

I want to see someone who has at least solid hand technique and enough speed and raw athleticism to shoot gaps to stack up splash plays.

If I’m not seeing constant swim or power moves into the backfield, I at least want to see a guard or center being consistently pushed into his quarterback.

I’ve found the guys I like the most are nearly always five star recruits. Hey, at the end of the day, this needs to be a guy with rare athleticism weighing around 300lbs. Not many 18-21 year old’s fit that criteria.

On the evidence of the Miami game from Saturday, Easley does all of these things. Now it’s a case of tracking his season to see if this is a flash in the pan or truly what the guy is offering to NFL teams.

A few months ago we looked into a series by Matt Waldman discussing the characteristics Bill Walsh looked for in a player. Pete Carroll is obviously highly influenced by Walsh, and there are several obvious Walsh characteristics within Seattle’s current roster.

Here’s what Waldman wrote about Walsh’s ‘ideal’ defensive tackle:

Ideal size: 6-2, 290

Must have the girth, strength, ballast to hold off the guard, or to step into a tackles’ block without being knocked off the line of scrimmage.

Quick, strong hands to grab and pull are critical. This is common with the great tackles. The hands, the arms, the upper body strength and then the quick feet to take advantage of a moving man, just getting him off balance.

You are looking for somebody who can move down the line of scrimmage and make a tackle, pursuing a ball-carrier. That would be lateral quickness in a short area, being able to get underway and move over and through people. If you get knocked off the line, or get knocked sideways or knocked off balance, you cannot play this position. You must be able to work your way through people, so that kind of strength is a must.

The best defensive tackles move the offensive guard back into the quarterback. (emphasis mine) They won’t have nearly as many sacks as others, but if they can move the guard back into the quarterback, then the quarterback has to avoid his own lineman as if he were a pass rusher before he throws the ball. So this is a key ability.

Easley is 6-2 and 285lbs. Watch the video above and tell me you don’t see a Walsh defensive tackle. The one thing he probably lacks is girth. He doesn’t have a large rump (no giggling) or powerful base. He looks small.

But he plays big.

He’s a senior so he’ll definitely be in the 2014 draft. He’s a former five-star recruit (like it).

Perhaps tellingly, he never had an offer from Carroll’s USC in 2009 (he did get an offer from UCLA). Easley’s originally from New York. Sharrif Floyd — originally from Philadelphia — had an offer from USC in the same year and also ended up with the Gators. This doesn’t mean Pete Carroll necessarily had no interest in Easley, but it’s food for thought.

It’s also worth noting that Seattle has been anything but orthodox at the three technique. They keep trying bigger, leaner tackles at the position. Jordan Hill was perhaps the most orthodox they’ve been so far, but even he seems to have been tagged with the ‘passing downs’ label.

Even so, I find it hard to ignore pure three technique prospects. I think the Seahawks need one. And the likes of Michael Bennett are only here on one-year deals.

So what else do I like?

He seems to have a knack of jumping the snap and getting off the line quickly. He can switch quickly from power-to-speed and has good hand use. Easley plays end as well as tackle, which is testament to his athletic quality. He’s a brawler. I cannot stress how much that matters at this position.

Most importantly he has the ability to have a major impact on games. When he wasn’t in the backfield against Miami, he was being held. Like Vic Beasley, I’m not going to come out and say this guy is a nailed on first rounder. I don’t know what round he’ll go in. At this stage we’re merely identifying which players to monitor over the next few weeks.

Beasley and Florida need to be on your schedule.

30 Responses to “Florida’s Dominique Easley one to watch this year”

  1. Kenny Sloth says:

    HOLY GUACAMOLE, BATMAN. That boy is QVICK. Intense, too. Hand use is ridick. burst is crazy. It’s funny. Last year, when I first started scouting Floyd, I thought that Easley was him and was very impressed haha.

  2. Miles says:

    That tape is unbelievable. If he plays 13 games like that I think he’ll go early in round one. My early assessment would say he’s the perfect Mebane replacement.

    Speaking of Mebane, he didn’t look too good on Sunday and that’s a bad sign for a team that already has questions at the 3-tech. On a higher note Tony McDaniel played really well.

  3. Attyla the Hawk says:

    I could be in the minority here.

    I had seen that tape, and some others of his, and my first and lasting impression was, this guy would be outstanding at LEO. Although I’m beginning to think that every prospect that someone wants to talk up is spoken of in terms of being a good LEO end. But I’ll try to expand on why I like him for that role better than your run of the mill ‘he would make a good LEO because he doesn’t look good anywhere else’ kind of prospect.

    At 3 tech, I really see issues for Easley. He demonstrates a lot of power and speed. But if you watch the plays where the guard gets a quick step on him and gets position, Easley gets pretty much destroyed. And it’s generally a severe 1 v. 1 planting where Easley has no impact on the play whatsoever.

    Why LEO? Well, when I see his most explosive plays, it’s when he has an angle advantage. He is incredibly quick on the snap. And equally he’s explosive when he gets into a lineman’s frame. But playing inside, he’s also playing in a phone booth. He doesn’t have a lot of size, and when he can’t avoid a blocker, he is easily handled. His quickness advantage often times disappears when there isn’t space for him to exploit. Interior guys don’t have to defend as much space. And in instances where he can’t get them out of position, his lack of size becomes a huge liability.

    But his quickness and combination of raw speed and raw power would make him a tantalizing choice as a LEO end. Given space, he can quickly and effectively avoid being blocked squarely. He has a solid array of rush techniques that he employs. Effective outside or inside. Really, from a pure athletic/speed rusher standpoint, he really shows excellent skill.

    For a LEO prospect, he’s got better power and size than any LEO we have — including Clemons. The LEO is billed as a bit of a hybrid position for LB/DE tweener types. Easley appears to me to be more of a 4-3 DE, but with more power and less speed. He looks incredibly fluid and explosive.

    I see him as having less than ideal speed for the LEO position. But I think he has the athleticism to man that position and I think his quickness off the snap, and his ability to leverage his quickness and power into an advantageous rushing position in space make him effectively better than if he were just blazingly fast but incapable of translating that speed into advantage when he makes contact with the tackle. The fact that he’s equally adept at attacking from a number of different angles leads me to the opinion that he won’t be the prototypical ‘turn the corner’ end. He will get the corner occasionally but he’ll get the inside too. Chris Clemons is very much the same kind of LEO.

    When you see him in situations where the lineman can’t get on him right away, he looks unblockable. Against an interior lineman in the NFL, he’s going to find those instances rare. As a LEO, he’s going to have that advantage almost every single snap. And unlike some of the lighter LEOs we have backing up Clemons, he is a player who can manage to force a stalemate at the point of attack instead of looking like a LBer taking on a tackle.

    He looks to me to be a much more accomplished and much faster and quicker version of Courtney Upshaw. They have similar size, but Easley is so much more athletic and quick. He also looks like he’s got much better pass rush skills. Upshaw was a much stiffer DE. Easley shows great flexibility — reminds me of Alex Okafor, except plays like he’s 40 lbs bigger as it correlates with how he can still win the advantage once engaged with a lineman.

    Easley looks like he would be a LEO who has the ability to beat his man completely at times, but when he doesn’t, it’s still just a matter of time when he gets there. He looks like a player who could create consistent QB pressure by working counter moves if he doesn’t manage to beat his man outright.

    • Colin says:

      I don’t see the LEO fit myself. I don’t think he has that bend to him, that ability to rush around the corner. You put him in as a specialist with a lead and turn him loose on the inside. That’s not to say he can’t play inside as a starter, but he’s the lightest 285 DT I have ever seen.

      The Seahawks need a fixture on the defensive line. Badly. Clem, Avril, Bruce, they are all nice pieces that all fill vital roles, but Seattle needs a rock. Mebane is the only guy they have on the line that comes close to that, and he even he has shown a few cracks. I always dream about what if we had just lost that silly game to the Rams at home, taken the draft position and traded up for JJ Watt. My God. You’d never touch this defense. Ever.

      • Miles says:

        But… but if we lost that silly games to the Rams at home, then there never would have been that Beast Mode run. :…(

        I don’t see him as a LEO, though he may have some LEO tendencies. He seems like a guy who can shoot the gaps with ease much like Mebane did when he was in his prime. Not to say that Easley is some proven commodity, but he appears to me not as a LEO, not as a 3-tech, but a 1-tech that can rush the passer and stop the run.

      • Rob Staton says:

        If Seattle loses to the Rams in that game they would’ve picked #8 overall as a 6-10 team. So no need to trade up. The thought of JJ Watt on this team is frightening. I wish we had JJ Watt.

        But I also don’t regret the Rams win. I think it (and the victory vs New Orleans) truly helped the momentum of this team.

        • Nolan Thomas says:

          Yeah can’t take back the beastquake, on of the biggest plays in team history. Also you don’t know they would have taken JJ Watt at 8 could have easily selecvted some one else.. plus I have been watching back the future latly and when you start screwing around with the past it useually effects your future.

    • williambryan says:

      I noticed the same thing. When he gets downblocked at an angle he is ate up, but when he takes an Olineman head up he does really well.

      • Attyla the Hawk says:

        For giggles, I went ahead an perused some of the scouting reports and video of Geno Atkins coming out. Some interesting parallels:



        “Positives: Explosive one-gap tackle who plays with a large degree of athleticism. Explodes off the snap with a nice first step, fires through gaps upfield, and plays with good pad level. Fluid moving in all directions, plays with good balance, and rarely off his feet. Displays speed up the field or out to the flanks. Quickly changes direction and shows ability in pursuit. Flashes lower body power and the ability to get push up the field.”

        “Negatives: Undersized, smothered at the point of attack and very slow to shed blocks. Easily turned from the action by a single opponent.”

        “Analysis: At the top of his game, Atkins is an impact defender who easily exploits opponents and displays the ability to make a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. He runs hot and cold on the field and has not consistently played at a high level. Atkins has the playing style to be a three-technique lineman at the next level, and he could have a long career if he makes football a priority.

        Projection: 3rd”

        “Against the Run:

        Was productive in this area in college, but lack of size will be more of an issue in the N.F.L. Shows intial quickness off the snap to get into gaps and disrupt blocking schemes or make tackles in the backfield; is highly productive against “reach” blocks. Shows the intial quickness, leverage and hand usage to jolt offensive linemen; can defeat one-on-one blocks with quick hands and feet. Lacks the size and strength to shed offensive linemen once they get their hand on him. ”

        This is what I was seeing too. In space, where OL have to reach for him, he is far too fast and way too powerful for them to block him square. In those instance, you literally see Easley explode past the block with an almost instant win that is translated quickly into a free rush situation. This is where I see him excel in the LEO role, where he can more readily force a reach scenario by operating in a bigger space. Clearly he can do this from an interior position at times.

        As can be seen, a lot of the exact same critiques I leveled on Easley were attributed to Atkins in 2010. Although watching Atkins’ tape, it’s apparent that Atkins possessed a better/sturdier base than Easley. Atkins looks like he had excellent strength as well as a frame that could add lower body power and mass. Easley doesn’t really show that at least on tape very well. He really looks like a maxed out middle linebacker as far as physique/frame. Clearly Atkins improved dramatically after his college days in particular with his physical development. I’m not sure it would be fair to expect a similar post draft development for Easley.

        Honestly, I think the lack of height is a true advantage for the right kind of prospect. Atkins and Easley both play in a manner that maximizes the productivity of that natural leverage advantage. They both have the strength and quickness that combined with a shorter base — allows them to appear almost unblockable.

        Easley is not going to be first round grade material very likely. His lack of mass is going to prohibit that for most teams in the market for high grade DL improvements. Good thing Seattle isn’t beholden to such conventions.

  4. Ben Harbaugh says:

    Ah, Easley. I’m a fan for all the reasons you stated. He’s especially intriguing to me for the Michael Bennett role. At his best, he’s a disruptive force. That being said, he badly struggles to disengage. For one, he has short arms and is obviously small for a DT (I’d be shocked if he actually weighs 285). His incredible burst off the snap also leaves him caught up in the power base of opposing linemen. This problem will probably only intensify at the next level against longer/stronger/quicker offensive linemen.

    I’ve decided that VANGUARD is a worthy nickname for Easley – he won’t land many finishing blows but he’s certainly capable of making a big sloppy mess of delicately crafted offensive plays.

  5. Cameron says:

    Wowed by the tape, skeptical about the measurements. If Easley is 270 lbs I would be surprised. The first play that they showed when they put the little yellow box on him I thought it was a mistake. There’s no way that was a DT.

    Easley’s greatest asset his get off. He’s consistently getting into the gap before the lineman can react. This puts in him in favorable leverage situations and it’s no surprise he drew all the holding calls that he did. Technique wise I am a little non-plussed as Easley appeared to be to be a bit of a waist bender. I’ll keep an open mind, but until I see 290 as his weight at the scouting combine he is a no for me.

  6. James says:

    No team is perfect; it is impossible to have All-Pros at all 22 positions. Even if you could draft them, you would lose them due to the salary cap. There will be parts of great teams that are only average. For the Seahawks, this is the D Line. Clemons/Avril if healthy could be good, but not great rush ends. Mebane and Bryant barely fit into the “good” category, compared to the best at their positions. For the Seahawks to win a Super Bowl, they can overcome this weakness with elite execution at other positions, DB, RB, WR (with a healthy Harvin), and an elite Russell Wilson if they are to win a championship. But the road will be long and hard, because as we have seen over and over, good teams can drive the field and put up points on the Seahawks during the 4th quarter. Unless PCJS find an elite pass rush DT, it will be a struggle. With one, it will be multiple championships. This has to be the priority until they find one. Somewhere is the next Geno Atkins….maybe this is the guy.

    • Alex says:

      the funny thing with Geno Atkins was that he was a mid round pick AND this site specifically targeted him as an ideal choice for the 3 tech (back in the Earl Thomas and Russell Okung draft).

      Agreed. No team will have 22 All-Pro. The key is to have the few true game changers. The Calvin Johnson, the Adrian Peterson, the Aaron Rodgers, the JJ Watt. In college sports, it’s the Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy of the world. There aren’t many of those.
      Look at the state of UT and Florida after they left. Good, but no where near the dominant power they were a 5 years ago. Their recruiting classes still routinely rank in the top 5, so what changed? The game changers.

      For our team, I believe them to be Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, & Russell Okung.

  7. Clayton says:

    Just wanted to throw a DT name out there. His name is Tenny Palepoi. He was Star Lotulelei’s back up at Utah last year. Coaches and players are all saying that this guy is as good as or better than Star. So far this year he’s played two games and has 2.5 sacks.

  8. Alex says:

    The thing with Easley was that he was originally scouted as a DE during HS, but they played him at DT during the All American Bowl (forgot if it was Army or UA) and he proceeded to win the MVP.

    In these tapes, I see something similar. He occasionally likes up outside, but he mostly lines up at the 3 tech.

  9. Brendan Scolari says:

    Fully agree with this praise, every time I’ve watched him he’s played like a stud.

  10. Elijah says:

    I would imagine Dan Quinn is going to be in Pete Carroll’s ear about all his former Gator players

  11. Brincke says:

    How about no. 7 from Florida – Ronald Powell? I think he made some nice plays here and there as a DE.

    Did anybody else notice him while watching the video?

  12. oz says:

    #7 flashed,#2, 3 or 5 tech.

  13. Miles says:

    Just a note: CBSsports.com projects Easley as a first or second-round pick right now. It’s indicative of how he is viewed nationally but it’s premature to look into this too closely also. This time of year, it’s hard to know what players are going to hit the draft and who won’t. Draft stock is inflated. There were a few players who were 1st or 2nd round talents last September who ended up going in the 6th or 7th round once the draft board filled out.

    On the other side of things, Brandon Coleman is currently a 2nd-round projection.

  14. Trudy Beekman says:

    His get-off is elite, he’s a natural pass-rusher, and he plays with incredible power and leverage, but I see a 2nd rounder for a few reasons.

    One, he’s going to get the tweener label. No way this kid is 285, looks more like 270, but his best work is shooting gaps inside. Probably a little more powerful than Datone Jones last year which is the player he reminds me of most, but doesn’t have great hands or moves inside. He also gets turned sideways a lot and worse, plays with his head down when getting into the backfield. His role as a Seahawk will be in that Bennett role, but I could see him also playing 3-4 DE in base as he has the power to do it. Another reason he’ll probably fall is that he lines up mostly at NT, so his stat line shouldn’t be huge on the year, which could be a good thing.

    I see a kid that is going to take a couple years to develop. His technique is not great, but you can’t argue with his drive. Sharriff Floyd was the same way last year with getting sideways, so maybe that’s something that was getting taught there?