Extra Points: Easley puts himself back in the mix

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Updated: 4/18/2014 1:07 pm

(SportsNetwork.com) - There are plenty of boom-or-bust types in every draft, but perhaps none in the 2014 version poses a more interesting dilemma for NFL teams than former Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley.

Easley is a top-10 talent with a history of significant knee problems playing a position (defensive tackle) which demands he carries a lot of weight on his 6-foot-2 frame.

Easley tore both of his ACLs during his time in Gainesville, Fla., most recently damaging the ACL and meniscus in his right knee last September, cutting short was shaping up as a monster season for the Staten Island, N.Y., native.

He proved to be a quick healer the first time after tearing his left ACL and by the 2012 season Easley was flashing impressive explosiveness off the ball in what is essentially the Triple-A of pro football, the Southeastern Conference.

Easley also has always shown the kind of quick, active hands that are a staple of three-technique stars in the NFL and despite being "undersized" at 288 pounds has always been able to hold his own against the run thanks to impressive core and lower-body strength.

More than one doctor has said an ACL is actually stronger after repaired surgically and rehabbed properly, but no matter how many times an MD tries to sell that narrative, NFL teams rarely bite and you can bet a number of clubs have already placed a red flag next to Easley's name and deemed him too big a risk to take during the first two days of the draft.

Easley didn't feel healthy enough to compete at the Gators' pro day on March 17, preferring to wait another month, circling April 17 as the date he could show off just how much he has recovered from his latest injury in a scant seven months.

Easley didn't disappoint on Thursday with 18 NFL teams watching despite measuring his own progress at about 80 percent of what he is when healthy.

A few scouts on hand even left thinking Easley put himself back in the mix at the top of Round 2 and turned himself into a solid consolation prize for teams that like Aaron Donald, another undersized but explosive defensive tackle who some have rated as a top-10 pick.

An NFL source confirmed to The Sports Network that Chicago, San Francisco, New England and the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks have shown particular interest in Easley and could be in the mix on the draft's second day.

The Bears make a lot of sense because they are in need of a difference maker at the three-technique and many have linked them to Donald, but it's hit and miss as to whether the former Pitt star will be there for Phil Emery at No. 14 overall.

Meanwhile, the 49ers also look like a logical bet because their GM, Trent Baalke, has shown a willingness to take a chance on injured players with high ceilings (see Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore).

As for Easley, he just wants his chance.

"I don't expect sympathy from people," the DT said. "Life is not about sympathy."

The Sports Network's top defensive tackle in the 2014 NFL Draft:

1. - Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

2. - Louis Nix, Notre Dame

3. - Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

4. - Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota

5. - Dominique Easley, Florida

6. - Anthony Johnson, LSU

7. - Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina

8. - Ego Ferguson, LSU

9. - Daniel McCullers, Tennessee

10. - Will Sutton DT, Arizona State

The Sports Network's Stock Watch:

Sleeper - DaQuan Jones, Penn State

Small School Standouts - Caraun Reid, Princeton; Zack Kerr, Delaware; Ryan Carrethers, Arkansas State

Risk/Reward - Easley

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