2016 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Ezekiel Elliot
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: It is very rare in an NFL Draft for running backs to be described as safe picks, but in the 2016 NFL Draft, Elliott is one of the safest players at any position. A smooth runner who is very polished and NFL-ready; it would be a shock if he didn't turn into a quality NFL contributor at the very least. On the high end of his projection, Elliott looks like a potential Pro Bowler and capable of being one of the top running backs in the league.
In 2014, Elliott was the workhorse who carried the Buckeyes to the National Championship. When starting quarterback Braxton Miller went out in the beginning of the year and backup J.T. Barrett went down at the end of the season, Elliott was the constant who did the heavy lifting for Ohio State's offense. He destroyed Wisconsin (20-220-2), Alabama (20-230-2) and Oregon (36-246-4) in the final three games to get the Buckeyes their National Championship. Elliott averaged 6.9 yards per carry in 2014 for 1,878 yards with 18 touchdowns.
Elliott was very consistent in 2015 despite Ohio State's offense having revolving quarterbacks and an up-and-down passing attack. The junior averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 1,821 yards with 23 touchdowns. He went over 100 yards in every game except Ohio State's loss to Michigan State (12-33). Elliott could have rubbed some in the NFL the wrong way when he criticized the Ohio State play-calling after that contest. Elliott was correct in his opinion, and scouts had been critical of Ohio State's play-calling and offense all year, but airing it to the media could upset some NFL coaches; he apologized to his coaches afterward. In speaking with scouts since then, they don't seem at all bothered by Elliott's comments. To conclude his collegiate career, Elliott dominated Michigan and Notre Dame.
As a runner, Elliott is extremely well-rounded. What sets up all of his success is his first-step quickness and his burst to hit the hole. He doesn't have Chris Johnson speed, but he has that fast first-step and gets to the second level of defenses in a hurry. Elliott also has excellent feet, cutting ability, vision, balance and pad level to weave through defenders.
Elliott has an ideal build for the NFL. With his power, balance and pad level, he is tough to tackle and picks up yards after contact. Elliott runs low to the ground and has good ball security. He is good in short-yardage and near the goal line, plus has a nose for the end zone. With his elusiveness, Elliott also can create for himself, so he bails out his blockers if they don't have everything perfect.
In the passing game, Elliott is an asset and has three-down ability. Even though Ohio State didn't run a pro-style offense and had revolving quarterbacks the past two seasons, Elliott produced through the air. He recorded 27 receptions for 206 yards as a junior after 28 receptions for 220 yards as a sophomore. Elliott also showed quality blocking as a junior. The blockings was not only in blitz protection, but on running plays for the quarterback or other players like Braxton Miller.
For the NFL, Elliott could fit in a zone-blocking system where he could be a one-cut downhill runner or he could function in a power-man scheme with his cutting ability and elusiveness.
At the combine, Elliott had a good workout to lock in his status as the top running back prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft. He ran a 4.47-second time in the 40-yard dash and did well in the field drills.
The only serious flaw for Elliott as a prospect comes off the field. Multiple teams said he didn't interview well at the combine. He was known as, and admitted to being, a big partier at Ohio State. Teams strongly suspect that he was one of the players who former teammate Noah Spence suggested was also using ecstasy and molly (MDMA). Teammate Joey Bosa is in that group as well, and Bosa refused to take a drug test in order to hide it. Bosa told teams that Elliott had such an intense party atmosphere at their apartment that Bosa had to move out in order to get things to quiet down for him off the field. Other teammates said that Elliott can rub some the wrong way and has a strong personality.
Also, it left a bad taste in the mouth with some teams that Elliott was rather unapologetic for criticizing his team after the loss to Michigan State. When pressed, he said he did regret putting his coaches in a bad light, but team sources said it was pulling teeth for him to own up to that. Thus, teams have concerns about how Elliott will mesh in the locker room and what kind of teammate he will be in the NFL.
Even with those off-the-field concerns, teams didn't believe Elliott will slide in the draft. They believe he is a lock to go in the top 20 of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Le'Veon Bell. Of the running backs currently in the NFL, Elliott's skill set and versatility reminds me most of Bell. Both are put together well with a real burst to hit the hole. Bell is a three-down back who does everything well, and I think Elliott will be a similar back to Bell in his NFL career.
NFL Matches: Dallas, Philadelphia, Miami, Oakland and New York Jets
In the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, there are some obvious fits for Elliott. The highest that he could hope to go would be to the Cowboys with the fourth-overall pick. Dallas needs to upgrade its backfield. While signing Alfred Morris doesn't preclude the Cowboys from taking Elliott, it seems more likely that they will address a different position.
Perhaps the top fit for Elliott is with the Eagles with the eighth-overall pick. The Eagles are running back-needy after trading DeMarco Murray. After Philadelphia's trade up with Miami, the Eagles are in prime position to land Elliott. New head coach Doug Pederson is coming from Kansas City where Jamaal Charles was the engine of his offense. Elliott could be the feature back in Philadelphia.
The Dolphins lost Lamar Miller in free agency and need another back. They were in a great spot to land Elliott before their trade down with the Eagles. Staying in the AFC East, the Jets could also take Elliott if he slides. New York lost Chris Ivory and signed Matt Forte, but Forte isn't a long-term starter. If Elliott gets to either team, he would probably be the best player available and would make sense as an instant contributor.
The Raiders could be a dark horse for Elliott, and perhaps Oakland would be aggressive to get him. In all likelihood, the Raiders would have to trade up for Elliott. With their talented and high-priced offensive line, Elliott could have a lot of success running for Oakland. He would perfect to grow with young franchise quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Amari Cooper.
2016 NFL Mock Draft: Charlie's | Walt's
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