Rookie Profile – Ezekiel Elliott, RB Ohio State

Bruce Matson

Draft season is like the stock market. Players values will rise and fall on a daily basis. Every year there are one or two prospects that are the crème de la crème of the draft class and are considered blue chip prospects. These players are premium stocks, comparable to buying shares of Apple, Google and General Electric, because they are safe assets that are highly likely not to bottom out. These players are usually the consensus 1.01 and 1.02 picks in rookie drafts, depending on how many first-rate players are in the pool. Last year everyone was trying to get their hands on Todd Gurley and Amari Cooper as they were considered superior to the rest of the prospects in their class. The year before, Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins were the consensus top picks, which they were highly debated on because the class was the strongest wide receiver class of all-time.

Meet Mr. Google, Apple and General Electric of this year’s stock market of college prospects, Ezekiel Elliot running back from Ohio State. Many dynasty addicts have him already penciled in as their official 1.01 for rookie drafts. I’m an Ohio State fan and I’ve seen every carry of Elliott’s career. He is a very polarizing player and he well deserves the 1.01 in rookie drafts.

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There was a poll on Twitter, conducted by Izzy Elkaffas (a writer for DLF and co-owner of dynastytradecalculator.com), over who should be selected at the 1.01 in rookie drafts and Ezekiel won the vote by a tremendous margin.

Elliott was a four star recruit from John Burroughs High School in Saint Louis Missouri where he was very productive, rushing for 2,155 yards and 40 touchdowns during his senior season. During the recruiting process, he was ranked fifth among all purpose backs and 70th overall for the 2013 class, according to 247sports.com. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer aggressively recruited Elliott, who was involved in a major recruiting battle between Ohio State and the University of Missouri.

Elliott broke out during his sophomore season, rushing for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns, and led the Buckeyes to a National Championship. In their three post season games, he rushed for for 696 yards and eight touchdowns. He also finished third in the NCAA in rushing and fourth in yards from scrimmage (2098). Elliott’s junior season was a continuation of what he did the previous year, as he owned a 35.93 percent market share of Ohio State’s offensive output and rushed for over 100 yards in 12 of the 13 contests he played in. He finished the season ranked third in the NCAA in rushing and rushing touchdowns with 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns. Elliott’s legacy will be as one of the most electrifying Buckeyes of all-time, as his career rushing total (3,961 yards) has him ranked second behind Archie Griffin. He also surpassed 200 yards rushing five times during his career, which ties Eddie George for the most games with over 200 yards rushing in school history.

Let’s take a gander at Elliott’s Mock Draftable chart:

Elliott has the ideal size for a three-down running back in the NFL, with his thick compact frame that can handle a lot of pounding between the tackles. Both his height (6’0’’) and his weight (225 lbs) are above average when you compare him against other running backs. His 10 1/4’’ hands rank in the 97th percentile, which is one of the reasons why he only fumbled four times during his entire career at Ohio State.

Long speed was never an issue with Elliott, and he demonstrated that during the combine by running a 4.47 40-yard dash which ranks 78th percentile. The only negative to his athletic profile would be his vertical and long jump,which were both below average.

There’s a fallacy with the player comps in his chart and I have to point it out. Todd Gurley didn’t do any drills at the combine last year because he was still recovering from his knee surgery. We don’t have any metrics on his speed or explosiveness therefore we don’t have any accurate comparison between the two players. Both players are similar in size, Gurley is 6’1’’ and 222 lbs. with 10 inch hands. Other than their stature we don’t have much to go on when comparing the two players physically.

Let’s concentrate on Elliott’s profile on one of my favorite resources: PlayerProfiler.com

elliott profiler

Elliott’s college production stands out on his profile, because he’s creeping toward elite status for his college dominator rating and breakout age. He broke out during his sophomore season and he might have been productive sooner if Carlos Hyde wasn’t on the roster during his freshman year. His efficiency is very promising as he rushed for 6.3 yards per carry during his junior season which places him in the 82nd percentile amongst running backs.

The speed score factors in a player’s weight along with their 40-time, allocating a premium to larger players. Running a 4.47 40-yard dash while weighing 225 pounds is phenomenal, and not many players with Elliott’s size can come close to running that fast. His burst score is concerning since he ranks in the twenty-third percentile which indicates he may have issues with his explosiveness. I wouldn’t worry too much about his burst score because he has excellent scores in all other categories.

After comparing the physical and college production metrics, Matt Forte is the closest comparable player to him. This doesn’t mean they are carbon copies of one another but it does mean there are a lot of similarities in their player profiles.

Below is the 2014 National Championship game against Oregon where Elliott rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns. This was one of the biggest games of his career, and his performance made him a house hold name in college football.  There are a lot of things to take away from this game as it gives you a good overview of all his attributes as a runner.

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Physical is Elliott’s middle name, and he’s not afraid to lower his shoulder and plow through a defensive lineman to gain an extra yard. He does a very good job at keeping his pad level low at the point of contact. He takes his time before making his move allowing his line to make their blocks, so he can maximize his rushing lanes. It’s like he’s in the Matrix when he’s in the open field, because he’s very good at anticipating where the defender is going to be, allowing him to easily make his cut and slip past linebackers and defensive backs. Defenders have a hard time tackling him due to his ability to maintain his balance while getting hit. He has really good footwork, and he’s efficient with every step he takes with no wasted movement; allowing him to get through the rushing lane quickly. Elliott’s elite pass-blocking skills are on another level compared to most running back prospects. He’s highly intelligent at picking up blitzes, knows where defenders are attacking from and he uses good mechanics when picking up the blitz. He has great hands, and can be used as a receiver out of the backfield. He caught 58 balls in his career at Ohio State.

There are not many negatives to pinpoint because he’s close to perfect so you really have to nitpick to find any flaws in his game. His running style allows him take a lot of direct hits which increases the likelihood of injury. He does a great job at maximizing his athleticism but he does lack burst, causing him to get tackled while trying to slip away from defenders.

Summary

He is by far and away the top running back in this draft class and one of the best running backs to enter the draft in the last few years. He is efficient at all phases of the game from running routes out of the backfield to pass blocking. Elliott is going to be a first round draft pick and there’s a very good chance that he will be drafted within the top ten. Expect a heavy workload out of him early in career due to his draft position and talent. He is going to be a valuable asset to whoever drafts him. Odds are in his favor that he could be one of the top running backs in the NFL in a few years.

Elliott will be the 1.01 pick in most rookie drafts and there shouldn’t even be a debate about it. I consider him a bullet-proof prospect because his profile is near flawless. Unless he gets severely injured or goes to an NFL team and gets the “Lamar Miller treatment”, by not getting carries for some unforeseen reason, he should be one of the few productive three down backs in the league.

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