Ezekiel Elliott was a four star recruit and the No. 9 RB in the 2013 recruiting class from John Burroughs School in Ladue, Missouri. His freshman year, he ended up seeing very limited time behind the San Francisco 49ers’ current starting RB, Carlos Hyde. The next season he performed very well during the regular season and then approached supernova levels during his post season. In the B1G Championship against Wisconsin and playoff games against Alabama and Oregon, he hit 200 rushing yards in each game and combined for 694 yards and 8 TDs over those three games. This catapulted his status leading into the 2015 season as a top Heisman contender. He remained consistent and posted numbers in 2015 that were nearly identical to his 2014 numbers, with 5 more TDs. That performance left him 9th in the Heisman voting, while fellow RB Derrick Henry from Alabama won the award. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, their 2015 playoff hopes all but ended after a loss to Michigan State, and Elliott declared for the draft after that loss. He enters the 2016 NFL Draft as the consensus top RB, above even Henry.
|DOB||July 22, 1995||Bench (225 lb)|
|Height||6’0″||Vertical Jump||32.5 in.|
|Weight||225 lbs||Broad Jump||118.0 in.|
|Arms||31 1/4″||20 Yard Shuttle|
|Hands||10 1/4″||3 Cone Drill|
|40 Yard Dash (10 yd split)||4.47s (1.58s)||60 Yard Shuttle|
|Ohio State University (2013-2015)|
|2015||289 att, 1,821 yards, 6.3 ypc, 23 TDs||27 rec, 206 yards, 7.7 ypc, 0 TDs|
|2014||273 att, 1,878 yards, 6.9 ypc, 18 TDs||28 rec, 220 yards, 7.9 ypc, 0 TDs|
|2013||30 rec, 262 yards, 8.7 ypc, 2 TDs||3 rec, 23 yards, 7.7 ypc, 1 TDs|
- Strong understanding of how to set up blocks to be successful
- Good vision to select correct hole to run through
- Downhill runner who understands when it’s appropriate to turn upfield
- Strong acceleration through hole
- Speed on par with defensive backs but doesn’t accelerate past them
- Typically runs at angles instead of a straight line – allows him to string multiple cuts together
- Excellent pad level which gives him great ability to gain yards after contact with physicality
- Consistently churns legs after contact allowing him to pick up extra yards with multiple defenders on him
- Middle of the road cutting ability
- Has some balance issues with trash at feet and defenders leg tackling. Some times he works through it but often goes down.
- Inconsistent in making first defender miss in backfield, didn’t have to do it a lot
- Primarily targeted on swing passes, had trouble reeling in higher balls
- Occasionally split out wide but showed no real route running prowess
- Very good in open space with ball in hands, often making first defender miss
- Possible fumble red flag: always carries ball in right hand
- Fantastic chip blocker, really understands how to wait for perfect time to help chip
- Inconsistent when blocking one-on-one, had failed cut blocks and got rocked by bigger blitzers but held his own against DBs. Generally good form but needs to be aggressor.
- Wild card bonus as a lead blocker, displays fantastic vision and aggressive attitude
This article has two pages, one studying Elliott’s work in the run game and the second covering his work receiving and blocking. After the film study, a player comparison is provided as well as a projection into the NFL.
In order to watch Elliott, I went to Draft Breakdown, which has nine of his college games.
If there’s one theme that permeates Elliott’s work, it’s consistency. Zeke has a number of good qualities, and he does those things often. He consistently maintains an excellent pad level, shows a solid burst to get to the edge or through holes, and shows a good understanding of play design and how to help set up his blockers for success. He has adequate speed and often flashes elusive qualities. On most plays, he seems to show multiple of these qualities, so overlaps in the plays studied will abound. One potential issue with his game is his inconsistent balance, which can cause him to leave yards on the table. Those traits are covered in depth below:
One of the most impressive elements of Elliott’s game is his consistently ability to work through direct contact and consistently pick up extra yardage. The most important part of “falling forward” is to maintain a pad level that is lower than the defender trying to tackle you. This provides the runner with leverage on the defender, which can allow the runner to knock the defender off of him and break the tackle. Elliott was incredibly consistent in doing this, and really fell forward on almost every play (it can easily be seen in any of the later sections as well).
In addition, runners need to keep their legs churning to create yards after contact. If your legs are stopped, you aren’t going to move, and Elliott understands this:
In the first play above, he gets beneath the defender, makes contact, and then pops up, kind of like he’s a swimmer using the breast stroke. This allows him to shed the defensive lineman who was trying to tackle him, and he keeps his legs churning to get even more yardage in a short yardage situation.
The second play shows the highlight effect that a good pad level can have, as he knocks the LB flat on his back.
The fourth play illustrates another nuance used to create yardage after contact. After contacting the defender, Elliott spins off of him. This is a very common tactic, and it helps because of basic physics principles. Elliott is deflecting the force of the collision into the upward rotational motion, which allows him to keep moving forward. If he doesn’t spin here, the force of the defender colliding with him would slow Zeke’s momentum even more than it does.
Acceleration, or burst, is clearly and important aspect for any running back to have. Any given football play has a lot of moving parts, and particularly in the NFL open running lanes close quickly. Good RBs need to be able to make it to holes before they close, and they need to outrun defenders to get the edge. As seen below, Elliott can do both of those things:
The first play is a read option look, and the defensive end explodes far upfield to attack the possibility of a QB run. This also opens a lane for Elliott to run into, but the DE recognizes the run fairly quickly, and Elliott shows good burst right off of his cut to get past the DE, and also accelerates past #42 to take him out of the play.
The second play shows just how quickly Elliott can hit his top gear, as he’s pretty much at full speed by his second full step after taking the handoff. The third play shows his ability to reach the edge and accelerate past a very fast player (2015 first round pick Trae Waynes).
The fourth play combines his burst to the edge with good second level vision to pick up 10-15 additional yards on a run that was already very long. The final play combines good burst to the edge with excellent boundary awareness.