As we continue our series on potential draft prospects that the Saints could use in the upcoming May NFL Draft, it’s time to think defense. Meet Kony Ealy, Junior Defensive Lineman from Missouri.
The 6’5″ 275lbs. Ealy has drawn many comparisons to former Mizzou DE/LB Aldon Smith for his long reach and his versatility and for good reason. Ealy was amongst the team leaders in sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (14.5) for the SEC East Champion Tigers this past season. His long reach makes it easier for him keep blockers off his body and force fumbles on ball carriers.
Ealy has a unique combination of speed and strength which makes him twice as valuable for defensive coaches. He rare lined up at one set position while at Missouri. Several times this season he was either lined up as a Defensive End on one series and a Defensive Tackle on the next. Combine all of that with a quick first step, and that makes Ealy one of the best DE/LB “tweeners” in the draft, and let’s not forget that he helped bolster one of the nation’s best run defenses this past season. Before the SEC Championship game vs. Auburn, Missouri was only allowing only about 122 rushing yards per game.
Bringing that versatility to the Saints, who only allowed 111.6 rushing yards per game, would only lower that number and assist the Saints in becoming one of the premier run defenses in the NFL. Kony Ealy will fill one of the many holes that the Saints need to address this offseason if they want to build on the positive year they had this past season.
Although personally he wouldn’t be my first choice in the draft, he’s definitely a good fit for Rob Ryan’s defensive scheme and would replace some of the injury-probed veterans amongst the roster. Highly unlikely he’ll be available seeing that several teams have him going within the top 20 picks, but it all depends on his Pro Day and Combine workouts to see if that’s a definite spot.
Who knows, maybe he’ll drop a little bit and the Saints will be aggressive like they were a few years ago and trade back up into the first round to nab him. Anything is possible.