2016 NFL Draft: Comparing Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley


Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott is hoping to duplicate what Todd Gurley accomplished when he was selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft—breaking a drought of first round running backs since 2012. Elliott is in great position to accomplish this feat and even come off the board earlier than Gurley.

These two running backs have a lot in common but it’s the differences that have drawn my attention. Both players are big-bodied and powerful running backs who also posses breakaway speed. The clip below shows how Elliott is able to outpace the defensive:

It’s rare to see that type of speed from an individuals listed at  6’0” tall and 225 pounds. Their ability to combine speed and power is why NFL teams are willing to consider bucking the trend by grabbing a running back in the first round.

Outside the size/speed combo these two players are very different. Elliott is more of a downhill runner who does a great job running behind his pads. This limits the amount of big hits he takes and increases durability. Gurley is more of a up and down runner who exposes his frame and takes more impactful contact. The images below show the difference in their running style:

via draftbreakdown.com

via draftbreakdown.com

Durability was and still is a major concern surrounding Gurley’s overall potential. He has a history of leg injuries that forced him to miss significant time at Georgia. Elliott enters his Junior year with a clean injury sheet which is a major positive for his draft stock.

An area where Gurley is far superior than Elliott is as a pass catcher. Gurley was a part of Georgia’s passing attack routinely showing strong hands and the ability to pluck the ball away from his frame. The fact Gurley is at least adequate as a pass catcher means he can stay on the field in any situation.

Elliott tends to fight the football which leads to drops and double catches. He hauled in at total of 28 passes for Ohio State last year but that number could’ve been higher. His struggles catching the football isn’t his biggest problem in the passing game. Elliott is a liability as a pass protector featuring poor technique.

via draftbreakdown.com

He tends to lunge at the pass rusher leaving his feet and often missing his target (see above). Elliott rarely squares his body nor uses his hands to hold at the point. His inability to establish a wide base limits his anchor and results in him getting pushed back into the quarterback.

Evaluators will keep a close eye on these two problem areas as they could have a major impact on Elliott’s draft stock. As a runner, he is a top-10 talent but the NFL game requires more versatile running backs. It’ll be interesting to see if Elliott can seek into the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.