The son of a former University of Missouri linebacker (Stacy) who
allowed the memorable and highly controversial touchdown on the
"fifth-down" play against Colorado in 1990, Ezekiel was an elite
high-school football and track athlete before deciding to become
a Buckeye. "Zeke" spent his freshman year as a backup to starter
Hyde before bursting onto the scene as a sophomore in 2014,
essentially carrying Ohio State in the second half of the season
- along with third-string QB Cardale Jones - after starting quarterback
J.T. Barrett (filling in for the injured Braxton Miller) was lost
for the season right before the Big Ten championship game. Elliott
had a three-game run for the ages to close the season following
Barrett's injury, piling up 696 yards rushing and eight touchdowns
while leading the Buckeyes past Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon as
Ohio State won the first College Football Playoff National Championship.
His final year in Columbus proved to be more of the same, as he
was awarded the 2015 Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year
(Big Ten MVP) after rushing for 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns on
289 attempts. Elliott shredded Notre Dame for 149 yards on the ground
and tied a Fiesta Bowl record with four rushing touchdowns in his
final college game, giving him eye-popping totals of 625 yards rushing
and 10 touchdowns in the three bowl games in which he played during
his college career.
Best Scheme Fit: Universal. Should
excel in zone- or man-blocking system. Elliott's ability to plant
his foot and cut quickly will fit well in a zone scheme. His power,
balance, vision and willingness to embrace contact should allow
him to thrive behind a man-blocking line as well.
Coach Urban Meyer called him "the best player without the
ball that I've ever coached" - competitive drive shows in every
facet of his game.
Proven three-down back; adequate route-runner (for the limited
routes he was asked to run in college) with natural pass-catching
skills; possesses the ability to adjust to poorly thrown balls
and transitions quickly after the catch.
Routinely sheds the first tackler and maintains a good pad
level; keeps churning his legs on inside runs and regularly
gets more than what is blocked.
Explosive back with exceptional start-stop ability and let
his eyes control his feet while also showing an innate feel
for setting up his blocks; very little wasted motion.
Understands how to "tempo" his runs - often throwing off the
angles of a pursuing defender - but is a smooth accelerator
and knows when to put the petal to the metal.
Ball security: four fumbles (three lost) on 650 offensive
touches during college career.
Accumulated 617 touches over the last two seasons.
Almost seems too eager at times to seek out contact and, as
a result, tends to absorb more punishment than necessary.
Is not a sophisticated route-runner yet and can stand to refine
his technique as a blocker in the passing game.
There are some that believe that Elliott showed immaturity when
he complained about a lack of touches in the Buckeyes' only loss
in 2015 - a 17-14 setback to Michigan State - but even Meyer admitted
that his back was right, even if he wished his back would have
handled his displeasure differently. Nevertheless, it is hard
to blame him for calling out his offensive coordinator that day:
the only two times Ohio State lost in Elliott's two seasons as
the feature back were when he saw 12 or fewer carries. There's
a lot to like about the rugged junior back, who consistently maximizes
inside rushes by embracing contact and often turns perimeter carries
into huge plays simply by outracing defenders to the edge.
When the run demands that he stays inside, he looks like a younger
version of Frank Gore in that he puts his head down and shows
impressive leg drive while moving the pile forward. However, he's
not just an inside runner and that is where he is much more like
Miller. While he isn't the type that stacks move upon moves, Elliott
has the elusiveness to avoid an unblocked defender in the backfield
and make something out of nothing. He's the rare physical back
that actually plays to his timed speed and must be accounted for
in the passing game as well, so coaches will be hard-pressed to
pull him off the field on any down unless he needs to rest. The
Ohio State product shouldn't be expected to have the same kind
of rookie-year impact that Todd Gurley did unless he is the clear
feature back behind one of the league's best offensive lines,
but Elliott is by far the best bet in this class to come the closest
to challenging the ex-Bulldog and could ultimately end up being
the best player in this draft. In the end, Elliott is a clean
prospect with such high upside, he's easy to endorse as a top-10
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.