Carolina Panthers

Round 2, Pick 60: Panthers select Kony Ealy

Kony Ealy

Height: 6-4. Weight: 273 pounds.

Position: Edge rusher

College: Missouri

What he offers: Ealy was a very good pass rusher for the Tigers. He racked up 9.5 sacks last season as a first-team All-SEC selection. He played outside linebacker in high school and was a defensive end in college, hence his position reference being an edge rusher.

Why he fits: In terms of immediate need, Ealy doesn’t fit with the Panthers. Carolina’s defensive line is one of the best in the NFL, and the team has other needs. But Carolina has nearly $30 million in 2014 salary tied up in Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson, and that’s not a sustainable model for a team needing to pay Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly in coming years. If Ealy improves, and if Hardy doesn’t sign a long-term extension or Johnson digresses, Ealy could be more than a reserve sooner rather than later.

Worth mentioning: Ealy, like the rest of the Missouri Tigers, has been overshadowed this draft cycle by teammate Michael Sam. Sam could be the first openly gay NFL prospect to be drafted, and Ealy has probably fielded more questions about Sam than he has about himself in the past several months.

Bet you didn’t know: Ealy’s older sister, Sierra Jones, has a rare chromosomal disease that impairs her speech. Many times he’s referred to her as his inspiration. At the combine, Ealy said his No. 1 priority is to give his sister a better life.

What they’re saying: “Welcome to the Best Dline in the NFL @EalyKony #monsterinc” - Charles Johnson on Twitter.

Jonathan Jones

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