2016 Scouting Report: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio St.

Second level speed

A player’s 40 yard dash time projects his second level speed. While it’s not the most important trait for a player to have, it can definitely be the cherry on top for a prospect that is already very good. From watching him work on the second level, Elliott appears to have decent top end speed, but does not approach elite status. He certainly has the ability to outrun LBs, but seems to be pretty on par with college DBs.

NFL athletes just get bigger and faster, and that could lead to him getting caught from behind. In a few days, the Combine results will help tell the story on Elliott’s speed. From the tape below, I’d expect high 4.4s – low 4.5s:

The first play makes it clear that Elliott is faster than #47, but he fails to separate from #5 and #25. The second play clearly shows he is faster than LBs, as he accelerates past #35.

The third play shows some limitations where he is about half a step ahead of the deep safety initially but the safety, Jarrod Wilson, makes the tackle. The fourth play once again shows little separation from the DB. Finally, the last play shows that Elliott’s long speed is pretty decent, as he outruns two Oregon defenders.

Once again, Elliott’s long speed is decent, but it won’t be his calling card in the NFL. He’s not Chris Johnson. At 220 pounds and with the power he displayed above, he doesn’t need to be. His long speed adds a little balance to his game.

Patience/Vision/Pressing the hole

At Ohio State, Elliott obviously had an excellent supporting cast around him, from offensive maven Urban Meyer as his head coach, an excellent offensive line, dangerous QBs in Cardale Jones and JT Barrett, and a receiving corps that featured a litany of draftable players.

The ability of the players around him and the quality of his team’s scheme often put Elliott in the position to succeed. He took those opportunities, and while it’s nice to see a player capitalize on wide open holes, it’s possible to get too enamored with big plays that weren’t really caused by the RB and strong box score stats.

However, even though he was often put in a situation to succeed, Elliott’s understanding of the RB position and his role showed on tape, and allowed him to maximize what his supporting cast gave him and also create yardage when nothing was initially there.

Elliott displays strong patience and vision as well as an overall understanding of how his actions affect defenders in the plays below:

The first play is an excellent example of what’s called “pressing the hole.” The purpose of pressing the hole is to initially show movement in one direction to move a defender out of position, and then cut into the space the defender vacated. This can be done to affect an unblocked defender at the second level, or even a defensive lineman by giving the offensive lineman blocking him an advantageous position. In the play, Elliott initially goes up to the line as if he’s running inside. This sucks LB #30 in between the tackles, and then Elliott cuts horizontally along the LoS and runs into the space the defender vacated, and it sets up a TD run.

The second play shows that Elliott understands how the angle he approaches with can affect blocking angles. It’s very subtle, but as Elliott is crossing the line of scrimmage on this play, he subtly changes the angle of his approach. He was slanting slightly towards the top of the screen, but he angles slightly back toward #34. Then, on his next step, he cuts back to angling towards the top of the screen slightly again. This little step clearly affects the was #34 approaches Elliott, as he tries to shed before realizing Elliott is going to run by him, and it helped #68 lay a successful block. Elliott does this on other plays before he even reaches the hole, and he does it often.

The third play shows Elliott’s vision. While a lot of college RBs will use rely on their superior athleticism and try to cut runs that are stuffed inside to the outside edge, Elliott consistently showed the desire to run downhill, although he didn’t do it every time. Even on sweep plays, Elliott was cutting downhill at his first opportunity. Here, he has no chance to be successful running inside, so he cuts outside. He instantly processes the two unblocked defenders on the edge, and cuts upfield, gaining a first down. His ability to process that information quickly sets him apart from many college backs.

On the fourth play, Elliott shows his ability to follow his blockers. RBs are taught to run to the side their blockers have leverage on, usually either by reading the position of their helmets or their hips. Zeke has his LT blocking down, and the wingback coming across the formation to block the blitzing slot defender out. Additionally, he has an offensive lineman blocking a linebacker at the second level. Elliott is obviously going to run between the LT and wingback, but the fact that he cuts back to go inside the lineman on the second level shows that he understands and has the vision to execute the offensive play design.

The last play shows him once again doing a solid job pressing the hole and setting himself up for success, then shows bonus success after contact.

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Matt Fries

Matt fell in love with football as a young kid, but his passion for the strategy on the game flourished as a hobby during his time in college. Now graduated, Matt loves scouting individual players as well as breaking down strategies teams use to create winning plays. For all of Matt's articles: <strong><a href="http://nflbreakdowns.com/author/MattFries/">Click Here</a>.</strong>