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Scout's Take: Ezekiel Elliott showing traits scouts will covet


The recent devaluation of the running back in the NFL draft has led some observers to diminish the impact of the position, but the spectacular play of Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott during the Buckeyes' title run should serve as a reminder that running backs remain an important piece of the offensive puzzle at every level.

» Ohio State finishes atop final CFB 24/7 Top 25 Power Rankings

In leading Ohio State to a 42-20 win over Oregon in the College Football Playoff National Championship, Elliott racked up 246 rushing yards on 36 carries with four touchdowns. While those numbers certainly jump off the page when taking a quick glance at the stat sheet, they pale in comparison to the remarkable skills Elliott displayed with the ball in his hands. The Buckeyes' standout ripped through the Ducks' defense with a hard-charging running style that reminded me of a young Frank Gore. Now, I certainly understand that's lofty praise for a running back with only two years of major college experience, but his combination of speed, quickness, vision and power is similar to the traits that I observed when I watched Gore run through NFL defenses during his prime.

CFB Championship:
Ohio State 42, Oregon 20

From Elliott's ability to slither through creases at the point of attack on inside zone plays, counters and powers to his sticky hands and receiving skills, he displays the skills NFL coaches covet in marquee runners. In addition, he showed the ability to carry the load as a workhorse runner by topping the 200-yard mark in each of the Buckeyes' postseason games (Big Ten Championship, College Football Playoff semifinals and finals) and registered at least 20 carries in each contest. With Elliott posting the production against three elite teams down the stretch, NFL evaluators will view the 6-foot, 225-pounder as an ideal workhorse runner at the next level.

Looking ahead to Elliott's future, scouts will want to see if the sensational sophomore can build on his success this season. Evaluators will want to see him improve as a blocker and become an even bigger contributor as a receiver in the passing game. Additionally, scouts will take a long, hard look at his running style to make sure his production is due to his talent and not a byproduct of the Buckeyes' scheme or powerful offensive line. While it's easy to surmise that Elliott possesses considerable talent based on his play down the stretch, he has to convince scouts that he is a blue-chip prospect at the next level by turning his game up a notch when everyone puts a bull's eye on his chest next season.

» The fascination with Ohio State QB Cardale Jones is certainly running rampant in NFL circles after watching the 6-5, 250-pound redshirt sophomore display impressive raw natural ability during the Buckeyes' title run. Jones is a big-bodied passer with exceptional arm talent and sneaky athleticism. He capably makes the "pro throws" scouts covet in top quarterback prospects, while also showing sound judgment working through his progression in the pocket. Although the Buckeyes' spread offense features a variety of simple concepts, the fact that the former third-string QB enjoyed so much success against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon without prior experience suggests that he has the moxie, composure and poise to eventually play the game at the next level.

» What we learned from CFB National Championship Game: Cardale Jones considering NFL

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Of course, it is easy to get carried away with Jones' talent and potential based on three games, but projecting his long-term success is a little dicey with such a small sample size. Scouts haven't witnessed how he will adjust to defensive game plans designed to take away the strengths of his game and questions persist about his readiness for the next level based on his limited experience.

Thus, it is hard to imagine any NFL evaluator throwing a big grade on Jones despite his talent and potential. He simply hasn't played enough snaps to determine his long-term value and it is too hard to guesstimate where his sweet spot (prime position) should be on draft boards around the league. While I would hope Jones would stay in college to get his degree and continue to develop his overall game, the allure of playing at the next level could prompt him to jump whether he is ready or not.

» The Buckeyes' defensive line was overlooked heading into the game, but NFL scouts will walk away impressed with the collective play of Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington at the point of attack. The trio dominated the Ducks' offensive line and played a vital role in containing Marcus Mariota as a dual-threat playmaker on the perimeter. From their constant disruption on quick angles and slants to their ability to overpower the Ducks' blockers with bull rush and power maneuvers, Bosa, Bennett and Washington put on an impressive showing that isn't reflected in their stats. With NFL scouts and coaches constantly searching for dynamic players at the line of scrimmage, the College Football Playoff National Championship will pique the interest of scouts interested in quality defensive line play.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.



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