Kony Ealy, defensive end, Missouri.
The Carolina Panthers indeed threw their fans a curveball in Round 2. Instead of opting for an offensive tackle or even a cornerback, Dave Gettleman chose to go with a defensive end. Ealy will mostly likely study under the tutelage of both Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. He won't be starting, but with the suspension of Frank Alexander and the possible departure of Hardy after the season, drafting Ealy makes a lot of sense.
Financially, Carolina cannot afford to pay two high-priced defensive ends.
One year deal for Greg Hardy...Kony Ealy can be his replacement if the cap is tight.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) May 10, 2014
The defense gets better and built for the future. Kony Ealy showed some impressive footwork at the combine earlier in the year by becoming a top performer in the three-cone drill. His 6.83 time was very impressive for a man of his size.
Depending on which scouting report you are looking at, Ealy could be a steal for Carolina, as he was projected as a late first- to early second-round pick. In fact, both Rob Rang and Dane Brugler had the young Missouri defensive end as a top-five pick at one point.
Rang compared Ealy to St. Louis' Robert Quinn in his analysis:
Considering that Quinn finished second in the NFL with 19 sacks in 2013, he's a tough comparison for any rookie but there is no denying Ealy's upside. He boasts the length, burst and developing technique that every scout is looking for off the edge. If he continues to develop his game, Pro Bowls are in his future.
How do you feel about the Panthers' second round pick?
Based on that scouting report, there is a lot of positive upside to love about Ealy, which should put Carolina fans at ease.
After three seasons with the Tigers, Ealy accumulated 95 tackles, 12.5 sacks and an interception. It should be noted he returned that pick for a score.
As noted, Ealy will spend his rookie season learning the finer points of pass-rushing from two of the game's greats. It's reasonable to believe that either Johnson or Hardy could be expendable, and it will depend on who the front office feels will be the better option moving forward.
Ealy is similar to the current starting defensive ends in Carolina with his speed and his ability to reach the quarterback quickly. He is flexible, and it could be interesting to see if he is used as an outside linebacker in zone drop.
From a defensive standpoint, it will be really exciting to see Ealy on the field at the same time as Johnson, Hardy and Luke Kuechly.
The biggest drawback is perhaps his size, as he could benefit from bulking up his frame. However, he is athletic and can bring the pass rush as well as anyone. Ealy will receive a great education from the current veterans on the team.
Based on Todd McShay's comments following his selection, he should be developed into a legitimate starting defensive end by the start of the 2015 season. His rookie year will be about bringing him along and grooming him into an effective pass-rushing defensive end.
Welcome to the Carolina Panthers, Kony Ealy!
Player information retrieved from NFL.com, CBSSports.com and Sports-Reference.com.
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