The more tools a player has in his toolbox, the more successful he’s probably going to be. An RB’s goal is to gain yardage, and to do that he’s going to have to evade tacklers.
Elliott shows a number of positive elusive traits, but isn’t totally consistent with them. In some games, he simply overwhelmed defenses with his elusiveness (the Penn State game is probably the best example), but in others he relied more on his power.
While it’s not a strength, he can definitely use his elusiveness as a tool, which is going to help him a lot at the next level:
From a physical standpoint, the first play is the most impressive one I saw from Elliott. He looks electric, first bouncing the run to the outside, winning the edge past a diving LB, juking a CB out of his shoes, almost immediately shrugging of another tackle, and finally powering through the last defender for the TD. That’s special.
The second play shows good vision, and also the elusive qualities to evade #90 in the backfield then make #42 miss soon after. The third play shows Elliott stringing multiple cuts together and also shows something that helps him maximize yardage. Unless he’s behind the defense, he doesn’t run in a straight line. Instead, he always seems to be running in a zig-zag pattern, which is what allows him to string the cuts together. Because he’s not going exactly vertically up and down the field, he can significantly change the direction of his run and still be gaining positive yardage. It also messes up defenders’ pursuit angles.
The last two plays combine to show Elliott’s spin move, one bad and one good. The first is in the open field with the defender coming head on towards him. The CB does a great job of closing the gap, and Zeke is not able to elude him. However, on the second play, the defender is approaching at an angle (well, Elliott is running at an angle), and Zeke’s spin move looks nasty. The second play also shows strong pad level once again for even more yards.
For all of the good that Ezekiel Elliott displays on tape, there is one element to be concerned about, and that is his balance. He stumbles frequently and often struggles to navigate trash at his feet. At times, it looks like he is running with abandon and is out of control.
Obviously falling down while running untouched would be bad, but poor balance is more than just that. It can cause players to get tackled by just being hit in the legs, and that happens all too often for Elliott.
In the NFL, players are going to often be at least a step faster than college players are, and that will cause a guy like Zeke to get hit in the legs when he would normally be clean, which could be an issue.
On the first play, he stumbles big time when cutting. This slows him down. He’s able to recover, and actually then shows good balance by hardly being affected by the defender grabbing his foot. However, if he hadn’t slipped, the defender wouldn’t have been there in the first place.
On the second play, Elliott trips while cutting again and gains just three yards with good blocking and a one-on-one situation in the hole. The third play again shows Elliott stumbling while trying to cut, and his stumble combined with getting hit in the legs causes him to run into his own lineman.
On the fourth play, a defender just barely gets a swipe at Elliott’s leg and it knocks him over. The final play is an example of good balance from Zeke, as he gets through a leg tackle and also successfully hurdles one of his own lineman.
Balance is something that can be worked on, but it’s definitely a concern for Elliott as he enters the league.