At this point in the draft process, basically every football fan knows Ezekiel Elliott. He’s the face of one of the top programs in college football, and helped lead the team to a national championship last season. Elliott has already declared for the draft and is generating first round buzz, a rarity for a running back in this day and age. What makes Elliott such a special prospect?
In 2014, Elliott’s production was simply amazing. He had 273 carries for 1878 yards (6.9 ypc) and 18 touchdowns, while also contributing 28 receptions for 220 yards. And if these numbers weren’t enough to wow you, he essentially played the entire season with one hand as his left wrist was broken for the majority of the season. To put his numbers in perspective, Elliott is one of only seven players in the last ten years to post a season of at least 270 carries for 1800 yards and 15 touchdowns, while also catching 25 balls out of the backfield. The list also includes:
- Matt Forte
- Tevin Coleman
- Ray Rice
- Kadeem Carey (Twice)
- Garrett Wolfe
- Jay Ajayi
This is an impressive list, as all besides Carey and Ajayi were at least third round picks, and Ajayi likely slipped due to health concerns. Forte and Rice, the two best players on the list, were drafted in the second round and most believe that this is the absolute latest Elliott will go. Many wondered if Elliott could repeat his success in 2015, and for the most part he has.
This year Elliott has rushed for “only” 1,672 yards and 19 touchdowns on 262 carries (6.4 yards per carry). His yards per carry took a hit, but still remained at a very high level for a college running back. He also continued his work in the passing game, as he caught 26 passes this season. This repeat performance puts him in a historical category: he is the only player since 2000 to have multiple seasons with more than 1,600 yards, 17 touchdowns, and averaging 6.4 yards per carry. While Elliott’s numbers look like they’ve taken a significant hit, he’s done all this in 12 games as opposed to 15 last season. Here’s a look at Elliott’s past two seasons compared to some other extremely productive college running backs:
Looking at the chart, Elliott has had two well above average seasons at very young ages.
At six feet, 225 pounds, Elliott has the perfect size to play running back in the NFL. Some may have concerns that his weight will slow him down, but this is not the case at all. NFL Draft Scout currently projects Elliott to run a 4.42 40 yard dash, which would give him an elite speed score (weight adjusted 40) of 117. Running backs with similar speed scores include Adrian Peterson, Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Stewart, Doug Martin, and Latavius Murray. He isn’t just a straight line speed player, as he tested very well in other areas coming out of high school. His 20 yard short shuttle time of 4.16 is comparable to that of Martin’s and Mendenhall’s, and based on this I would say it’s fair to believe that Elliott will run below seven seconds in the three cone drill. Elliott’s vertical jump was measured to be 33.6 inches, which is also nearly identical to Mendenhall’s. Overall, he looks to be a very athletic player who is also bigger for his size, which is the perfect combination for a back.
Without question Elliott is the best back in this class. His unique combination of size, athleticism, and production make him look like one of the top running backs prospects in a long time. Steve Jackson feels like a good comparison for Elliott’s ceiling, while a player like Rashard Mendenhall or Latavius Murray looks like his floor. Here’s Elliott’s 2015 season in the RB Prospect Lab, and it’s not a surprise that he fares very well in the model:
Lastly, a quick clip of some of Elliott’s best highlights: