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Scout: Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott projects as late first-round pick

Ezekiel Elliott's criticism of the Ohio State coaching staff for its play calling in a 17-14 loss to Michigan State won't be held against him when it comes to his evaluation for the NFL draft, and according to one NFL scout, the running back is on his way to being a first-round pick.

"He's not as physical finishing runs as (former OSU RB) Carlos Hyde, but he's got better top-end speed," the scout told FOX Sports. "He's not Todd Gurley, but he's a complete back. I think he's the real deal and he'll probably be a late first-round pick."

The junior was clearly upset with the Buckeyes' coaching staff after he had just 12 carries vs. MSU. He announced after the game that he will not return to OSU for the 2016 season. Underclassmen have until a Jan. 18 deadline to apply for 2016 draft eligibility. Only two running backs have been chosen in the first round in the last three drafts (Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon in 2015).

Elliott had rushed for at least 100 yards in each of Ohio State's first 10 games of the season until Saturday, when the Spartans held him to 33 yards and stifled Ohio State's entire offense for just 132. Elliott drew harsh criticism from former Chicago Bears coach Dave Wannstedt of FOX, who suggested OSU coach Urban Meyer should be prepared to sit Elliott for next week's game against Michigan if necessary.

"You've got friendly fire like this, (as a coach) you'd better meet it head on," Wannstedt said.

However, for the scout, Elliott's remarks were less of an issue.

"If anything, I agree with him. It's just a young kid being frustrated. You've just got to tell him to hold his emotions. Teams will ask him about it but he's the furthest thing from a malicious kid," the scout said. "He is a good, solid team guy. He's too good of a kid and too good of a player."

Elliott isn't the only running back who intends to turn pro early. Georgia running back Keith Marshall has the same plan, according to UGA coach Mark Richt, and Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams indicated he would likely not return to the Razorbacks for the 2016 season.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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