Scouting Report: Breaking Down Ezekiel Elliott as a Potential Candidate for Miami
Background & Stats:
Ezekiel “Zeke” Elliott will undoubtedly go down as one of the most productive running backs in Ohio State history. His list of collegiate accomplishments seems almost never ending. He is the second leading rusher in school history with 3,961 rushing yards, in addition to his 44 total touchdowns. He also ranks top two in number of 200-yard and 100-yard games in school history, and added 449 receiving yards as well.
A consensus four-star prospect leading up to his time in Columbus, Elliott was mentioned as part of the All-Big Ten first-team this past season after claiming the title as an honorable mention as a sophomore. He was the Big Ten’s Running Back of the Year as well as overall Offensive Player of the Year. He was also named a second-team All-American. Elliot declared for the draft as an early entrant with the expectation that he will be the first running back off the board in Chicago.
There is so much to like about Zeke’s game. There is a league wide consensus that running backs are becoming less valuable in today’s NFL Yet, Elliott is still being talked about as a top 10 pick; this speaks volumes about his talent. Let us start by breaking down his game as a runner. First off, he has a special combination of speed and power. Elliott’s skillset is truly a rarity these days. Elliott displayed his speed by running a 4.47 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Whereas in this play, he shows the type of power that will have coaches excited about his potential:
Zeke consistently shows amazing burst as well. At times, he finds ways to squeeze through the smallest of holes to break off a big run. This play against Oregon shows just how dangerous he can be with even a little bit of space:
Perhaps more importantly, Elliott’s other qualities allow him to consistently display these physical traits. He has fantastic vision and is wonderful at setting up his blocks. Once he has a lane, he is able to use his speed/power combo and change of direction skills to accelerate through the hole:
Considering he came just short of 4,000 yards rushing for his career, he obviously has a ton of talent on the ground. However, what makes Elliott so special is his consistency in contributing to other areas. One sentiment that is constantly brought up by scouts is Zeke’s blocking ability. It is difficult enough to get college running back’s to buy into pass protection. Elliott not only embraces it, but also thrives in doing so. He is physical, and takes on defenders without any hesitation:
I see this play as one of Zeke’s best highlights. He not only successfully acts as a lead blocker for quarterback initially, but also circles back around to completely eliminate a trailing defender from the play. This was one of my favorites from all of his tape because it shows how great of a competitor he is.
Elliott also has soft hands and is impressive after the catch. Although he was never featured as a pass catcher at Ohio State and could aim to improve his route running, he definitely displayed the necessary tools to be a three-down back at the next level:
The Buckeye obviously has a lot to offer an NFL team, and I haven’t even mentioned his ability to carry a heavy workload. Elliott is undoubtedly a versatile, exciting prospect and is extremely reliable in almost all facets of his responsibilities. Whoever drafts him is getting a heck of a player.
Sure I just explained how amazing Ezekiel Elliot is, and I may have had to nitpick to find many of the weaknesses in this section, but there are negatives nonetheless. As I explained earlier, while he has proven to be an able pass catcher, Elliot was never featured as one in Columbus. For that reason, he shouldn’t be counted on heavily in this regard at the beginning of his career.
At times, Elliott can also seek out too much contact. Physicality is almost never an issue, but if Elliott starts to rely on it when using his elusiveness is the better option, then it certainly could become one. Take this play for example:
While it is strange to include such an explosive play as a negative, I truly believe he could have had an even longer run had he not turned back and initiated the contact. He is such a difficult player to bring down that if he had just kept his head down, he truly could have had a chance to score. Once again, I may be nitpicking, but every prospect has areas in which he could improve.
There are two more aspects that could potentially hurt Elliott down the road. The first is the fact that he already has a lot of mileage on his legs at a very young age. He was a true workhorse for Ohio State and while that shouldn’t affect him early in his career, it could later on. Additionally, he has to make sure that he doesn’t let his competitive nature come to hurt him. One of his lowest moments in college came after complaining about the play calling in a game against Michigan State. This will not be accepted by coaching at the next level, and while this situation seems like an anomaly, it is something to pay attention to as he transitions into his professional career.
How He Would Fit in Miami:
Lamar Miller is gone. C.J. Anderson is back in Denver. Arian Foster made a visit to Miami, but no decision will be made on that front until he is further along in his recovery from a torn Achilles. But what about Ezekiel Elliott? He would be a seamless fit in Adam Gase’s offense. He can block, he can catch, and he has outstanding vision. Right now, Jay Ajayi is the only real option at the position; the recently reacquired Daniel Thomas doesn’t inspire any excitement.
Zeke’s blocking ability would be perfect for Gase as he attempts to develop Tannehill. The Dolphins already have offensive line troubles, and adding a talent like Elliott who could step in and contribute in pass protection right now would be a blessing. Plus, if Elliott and Ajayi were in the fold, they could give Miami two high-upside options for years to come. One thing is for sure: Zeke is going to be an immediate contributor wherever he ends up.
The real question remains: Is it really likely that the Dolphins draft him? A number of teams in the top ten are interested in the Ohio State star and for good reason. I don’t see a way that he falls out of that range. Even if he did, the Dolphins could potentially value other positions more highly or trade the pick to the highest bidder, as there would be a ton of interested parties looking to move up. Either way, despite the potential fit, it doesn’t really seem likely that Elliott ends up in Miami.