South Carolina’s wide receiver Bruce Ellington might be as accomplished an athlete that is entering the NFL Draft. Ellington played quarterback in high school and was a candidate for “Mr. South Carolina” after leading his team to a state championship. He played basketball in addition to football for the Gamecocks as a point guard and did not play football as a freshman. Ellington played football as well as basketball starting as a sophomore and played as a wide receiver the following three seasons, able to get better each year.
On top of everything else, he shined academically and was able to graduate with a year of football eligibility remaining. Being able to balance two sports and be as good in the classroom certainly shows an impressive ability for him to work hard, balance priorities and succeed.
For the NFL, Ellington’s tangible athleticism as well as his intangibles will make an attractive option as a developing player. He is not a polished player as a receiver, but seems to demonstrate a ton of ability that he can learn and pick up the process with time and effort. Ellington is raw as a route runner, but is able to create separation and get open. His hands are solid but he can get better catching the ball away from his body better and his blocking is a work in progress. Ellington warrants an early day 3 pick but should be a worthwhile investment on day three in a stacked class as someone with an intriguing amount of upside.
Vitals & Build
Ellington is listed at 5’9” 196lbs but looks bigger than that, with a thick, strong build. He looks like he might be someone who actually measures in taller than his listed height, but even if he is simply that height, he does not look short. Ellington has a good amount of physical strength. His athleticism is impressive with agility, body control and his feet and he has good speed as well.
Ellington’s experience playing basketball seems to serve his athletic ability well and it is noticeable in how he moves on the football field. He has a well-rounded feel and while he does not look like a polished football player, he looks like he has a little extra fluidity and quickness that could push him up over similarly built prospects. Ellington’s athletic potential is largely in just maximizing what he has as it relates to playing wide receiver. It also does not hurt him that his cousin, Andre Ellington is currently in the NFL as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.
Route Running & Technique
Ellington does not run routes in an orthodox, refined style at this point. He tends to round them off and looks like he is a point guard running off of a screen at this point. To his credit, he is able to get open quite a bit, but he needs to get more precise with his footwork and his economy of movement. Occasionally, he will inadvertently tip the route to the defender and allow them to break on the ball early.
His strength and overall athletic ability allow him to create space, so if he can combine that with precise route running, he could be extremely dangerous in being able to get open.
Ellington catches the ball well, but how he catches the ball can vary. He has certainly shown he can snatch the ball out of midair and he sees and tracks it well. A habit that needs to be broken is when he allows the ball to get into his body. Some of this appears to be a habit and something that can be broken but there are times, especially down the field where he seems to go with his body to ensure he catches it as he does not trust his hands at that level yet.
His catch radius is relatively average at this point. The more he trusts his hands and the more experience and reps he gets, this should improve. Ellington is able to contort himself to get to the football and jump well, so he has a lot of potential in this area and just needs to keep working until catching the ball with his hands is second nature.
Run After Catch
Ellington needs to get better when it comes to the catch to transition and more consistently, but he is certainly a weapon after the catch. He is not afraid of contact and he has a good sense of space and vision, so he can make plays. Ellington also has more strength than some expect so he can pick up extra yards running through contact, but his agility and speed are what make him dangerous.
Ellington’s effort as a blocker is good, but his technique is still developing. At this point, Ellington works to get in the way and put his body in between the defender and the ball carrier, basically mirroring the opponent. He needs to get better when it comes to hand place and where he needs to attack the opponent to drive them.
Ellington has experience both on punt and kick returns. He has not really distinguished himself at either spot but he does have the athleticism that could allow him to succeed there.
It largely remains to be seen. For all that Ellington can do, there is no obvious fit for him. He seems perfectly able to adjust to whoever wants him. His size and experience would suggest he might at least start out in the slot, but he has the potential to contribute on the outside because he does play bigger and has strength to play out there. The slot would allow him to get away with being more of a pure athlete but if he can develop into a refined route runner, he could end up moving around to different spots on the field.
Ellington has some similarities to Golden Tate of the Seattle Seahawks. Tate was a converted running back who made the move to wide receiver bringing a different skillset out wide and while Tate was more polished coming out than Ellington, they have some of the same unique athleticism for the position. Tate plays bigger than his height and can be tough to bring down after the catch, which Ellington may be able to do at the next level.
Bruce Ellington is an impressive athlete and a ridiculous over achiever. Those two things alone could get him drafted and have a team want to put time and energy into him. Ellington has an intriguing skill set and size that could allow him to be a terrific weapon if he can develop the finer points of the wide receiver position. As raw as he appears to be, focusing entirely on wide receiver could have him make big strides once he gets to an NFL team if that is his sole focus. Ellington warrants an early day three pick but appears to be a nice investment with some immediate returns but some long term potential as a receiving threat. The one issue that could potentially hurt him is if he sends mixed messages as to what sport he wants to pursue professionally.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com