Todd McShay raves about Ezekiel Elliott
It’s only January, but there seems to be a consensus among NFL draft experts.
Ezekiel Elliott will be the first tailback off the board in April, and if he impresses at the combine, he could go in the top half of the first round.
ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay got to see the Ohio State tailback in person a handful of times in 2015. When he joined the ESPN First Draft podcast to discuss Elliott among the other top skill position prospects, he started by echoing the consensus.
“He’s the best back in this class,” McShay said of Elliott. “I think he’s the most complete running back in this class.”
‘Complete’ is a word that’ll likely be associated with Elliott often in the pre-draft evaluation period. There’s a specific area of Elliott’s game, McShay said, that puts him above any 2016 tailback.
“The running back blocking in the running game, I’ve never seen a better one,” McShay said of Elliott. “Ezekiel Elliott takes pride in it, he’s outstanding at it, he’s efficient and he’s not afraid to throw his body around. I think he enjoys the contact of it to be honest.”
Elliott’s ability to be a three-down back could make him a less risky prospect than a typical college tailback.
But according to McShay, it’s more than Elliott’s blocking that makes him an easy sell at the next level.
“He’s very good in pass protection, exceptional as a run-blocker so it tells you the competitiveness and the toughness he has, and he’s very underrated pass-catcher,” McShay said of Elliott. “You saw the production this year compared to a year ago when he had the wrist injury and they weren’t trying to force him the ball in the passing game. This year, he really showed scouts that he’s fluid, he can adjust to the ball, he transitions quickly up the field and is a threat in the open field.”
Elliott actually had one less catch and 14 fewer passing yards in one less game in 2015.
The difference in production McShay could’ve been referring to was that in 10 of his 15 games in 2014, Elliott had one or zero catches. In 2015, he was held to one or zero catches only five times. Either way, Elliott proved he can be effective in a variety of areas out of the backfield.
Ironically enough, McShay isn’t as sold on Elliott’s superstar potential is as a pure runner.
“As a runner, I think he’s very good. I don’t know if he’s exceptional,” McShay said of Elliott. “I wouldn’t put him at the Todd Gurley-level. I wouldn’t put him at the…pick any of the ‘exception-to-the-rule-type’ running backs over the past 10-12 years. I would not put him in that category.”
McShay did say that he thinks Elliott will have a “very promising” NFL career. The question could be how high teams are willing to take a running back.
In total, six running backs have been selected in the first round in the last five years. There have been booms (Todd Gurley, Doug Martin) and there have been busts (Trent Richardson, David Wilson). Fellow ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper, unlike McShay, didn’t like any of them going that high.
Still, even Kiper agreed with the consensus.
“It makes no sense to take a running back in the first round,” he said. “But there will be one this year and it’ll be Ezekiel Elliott.”