Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State – 2016

Cowboys, Round 1. Declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft.

Postseason Events: NFL Combine.

Positives: Great height and good bulk for the position. Great hand size. Super-athletic, strong, and big running back. He runs with above-average speed, lateral quickness, and burst – and especially good for his size. Above-average cutback vision behind the line. His feet are quick enough for his size, and he is patient behind the line – but decisive, and follows his blockers well. Runs with good power – churning well, and with good stiff arm. Good body lean and balance, and usually falls forward for extra yards after contact. Churns pretty well in general as well in short yardage. Gets low through the line. Can take a hit and keep going. Has adequate hands, though not spectacular, and is okay at tracking passes over his outside shoulder. Above-average body control and adjusts well to off-target passes. Is pretty nimble on the sidelines after the catch. Protects the ball with both hands when he knows a hit is coming, and on the goal line. Switches hands well to the sideline. Above-average run blocker behind the line and down the field. Is agile and can leapfrog defenders and keep going. Is pretty tough and played through a broken wrist in 2014. Willing to hit hard on special teams as a tackler and as a downfield run blocker. Above-average track speed for the position, but very good for his size. Adequate broad jump.

Negatives: Below-average vertical leap. Needs to hold the ball high and tight down the field – can be stripped by defenders he doesn’t see. Below-average pass blocker but is willing to cut block. Though his hands are adequate, he is not a very natural receiver – he will double clutch and let some passes get to his body. Sometimes loses balance when changing direction and will trip himself up. Broke his left wrist in August 2014, had surgery, but missed no games. Had another surgery in February 2015 and was cleared in May. Slight character red flag in that he criticized his coach’s play calling in November 2015 but wasn’t disciplined. Charged with driving without a license in December 2015.

Pre-Draft Projection: Round 1, and possibly in the first 10 picks. To me, Elliott is the closest to a sure thing in this draft. Athletic, strong, fast, quick, good vision, tough, and nimble. I can’t imagine his minor negatives will get in the way of Elliott being a top-5 running back for years in the NFL, barring injury.

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