Missouri Tigers star defensive end Kony Ealy is one of the top prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft class, and he will almost certainly be a first-round pick despite seeing his draft stock fall a bit since the offseason began. Ealy has the ability to play as a defensive end in either the 3-4 or 4-3, and he could also be a 3-4 outside linebacker or play as a 4-3 defensive tackle in sub-package situations. If he falls to the 29th pick, I could see him as an attractive option for the New England Patriots, who like to kick defensive ends inside in obvious passing situations.
The NFL Network’s Gil Brandt reports that Ealy worked out for the Carolina Panthers this morning and will work out for the rival Atlanta Falcons tomorrow. It wouldn’t make sense for the Falcons to take Ealy with the sixth pick overall, but he would be a great pick for them if he falls to the second round. The Panthers would be in a position to take Ealy off the board in the late first round, but they simply don’t have a need for a defensive lineman.
As it stands right now, the Panthers have gaping holes at wide receiver, offensive tackle, and in the secondary, and they desperately need to fill those needs in aggressively. Their defensive line is stacked and one of the best in the NFL, especially after they spent their top picks on talented DTs Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short last year in much-needed moves. They also franchised superstar DE Greg Hardy this offseason, spending a great deal of money on him.
Although it wouldn’t make any sense for the Panthers to take Ealy, the Falcons are a very logical landing spot for him if he falls in the second round. That is, of course, if the Falcons don’t trade up for Jadeveon Clowney or even Khalil Mack and instead decide to draft Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews to fill in their need at offensive tackle. If they still have a need for a pass rusher and Ealy is available in the second, then he would make plenty of sense for a team that will likely run both the 3-4 and 4-3 next year.