Kony Ealy is headed to the Carolina Panthers after being selected with the No. 60 pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. Ealy is perhaps the best defensive end in this year's draft class not named Jadeveon Clowney (which means he would have been in the running to be the best in previous years). SB Nation has Ealy as the No. 17 overall player on its top 200 big board, putting him behind only Clowney and Khalil Mack among pass-rushing specialists.
Despite considerable pre-draft praise, however, it should be noted that Ealy may have some facets to work on before becoming a consistent NFL contributor. Retired defensive end Stephen White liked Ealy's versatility, but didn't see any elite aspect of his game.
He was good almost anywhere he lined up, but I just didn't see the flashes of greatness that I would expect from a guy who is seen as a potential first-round pick. It almost made me wonder if trying to do everything created a situation where it was hard for Ealy to develop fully by focusing on just one thing in particular.
SB Nation's Matthew Fairburn was more positive. Though he also admits that Ealy needs significant refinement, his agility and strength could make him special.
Ealy was a three-year player for Missouri before declaring for the draft as a redshirt junior. He put up 12.5 sacks and 27 tackles for loss during those three years, along with 95 total tackles and an interception. Fourteen of those tackles for loss and eight of those sacks came in the 2013 season, which was his best. He also forced three fumbles and put up six pass deflections in 2013.
NFL Combine results
Weight: 273 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.92 seconds
Bench press: 22 reps of 225 pounds
Vertical jump: 31 inches
Broad jump: 114 inches
3-cone drill: 6.83 seconds
Ealy disappointed at the scouting combine. He's supposed to be an athletic freak like Clowney, but his 40-yard dash time was particularly disappointing. It's worth noting that he did improve said 40 time at Missouri's pro day, running in the mid-4.6s according to reports at the time. Some suggested that hand timers even had him in the high 4.5s, which is great for him.