Improved Easley's injury hurts the Gators

The season-ending injury to Dominique Easley (a torn ACL and medial meniscus in his right knee) is a huge blow to the Florida defense, and very disappointing for a player who had really improved his NFL draft stock with his play in the Gators’ first three games.

Easley was following a similar path to that of teammate Sharrif Floyd (first-round pick of the Vikings in 2013) from last year, in that he was thriving after moving inside from the defensive end position.

Based on the tapes I’ve studied and games I’ve watched of his this year, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he had been the most dominant defensive player through the first quarter of the season, as he was very disruptive and regularly was making plays in the opponents’ backfield.

The biggest difference I saw in him this season compared to previous seasons was that he had violent hands, and his quick first step was also put to better use working inside. It was obviously a relatively small sample size, but based on what I saw of him in his first three games it was enough for me to move him from a Day 3 grade in the preseason to a first-round grade this week.

There is so much left to be determined between now and the 2014 NFL draft -- from Easley’s recovery from injury and his overall durability and character, to whether his test results defy or reinforce what we’ve seen on tape – that speculating on where he will be drafted is a waste of everyone’s time. But at this point I’d be very surprised if he didn’t declare for the 2014 draft.