Kony Ealy is striking while the iron is hot. He declared for the 2014 NFL draft on Friday, Jan. 3, following the Missouri Tigers' 41-31 Cotton Bowl win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys, per Matthew Fairburn of the Missourian:
Mizzou DE Kony Ealy is declaring for the 2014 NFL Draft.— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) January 4, 2014
The junior defensive end felt the time was right, per Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Kony Ealy: "I feel like it is time for me to go the next level."— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) January 4, 2014
It's hard to blame Ealy too much, as he was a force for Missouri on Friday night in Arlington, displaying a strong variety of moves to shed blocks and finding himself in the Oklahoma State backfield on most downs.
Bleacher Report's draft guru Matt Miller couldn't stop raving about the player during the game:
Several of you asked "who" when I tweeted about Kony Ealy. He's No. 47 for Mizzou. The one making all the tackles behind the LOS— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 4, 2014
Kony Ealy had 2nd/3rd grade from NFLDAB last year. If he comes out this year, he's in my top 10 players.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 4, 2014
In his most recent mock draft, Miller had Ealy going at No. 11 to the Tennessee Titans. He wrote:
Missouri's Kony Ealy will draw comparisons to Aldon Smith, and they aren't far off. Ealy is long but has strength on his 275-pound frame to attack blockers, runners and passers. He's also versatile enough to play outside the tackle, head-up or even inside as a three-technique on passing downs. That type of do-it-all pass-rusher is what the Titans desperately need next to Jurrell Casey.
The sky appears to be the limit for Ealy, and now that he's declared, he can focus all of his attention on boosting his draft stock.
Is Kony Ealy worth a top-10 pick in the 2014 draft?
While he's never going to supplant Jadeveon Clowney as the top defensive end on the board, he can at least work his way into the top 10 and maybe even better than that. The Cotton Bowl has positioned him perfectly heading into the NFL Scouting Combine and Missouri's pro day.
If you haven't watched much film of Ealy before Friday night, make sure to check out some of his highlights because you're going to hear his name a lot in the coming months. This is a player who will likely make an immediate impact when he reaches the NFL.