RSP Flashback: Cardinals RB Andre Ellington

Andre Ellington FFSwami
Photo by FF Swami

I was wrong about Andre Ellington’s NFL career, but I probably would have made the same conclusions if I had to do it again. Find out why. 

Rankings may be the most important thing to some readers, but it’s the least important thing to me as an analyst. I can live with being wrong about my rankings as long as my analysis indicates that what I saw was more accurate than my projection of that player’s future.

Andre Ellington is a good example of a prospect where I believe my assessment of his skills were correct, but my projection of his development was not. I had Ellington as my No.16 RB in the 2013 class. The main reason is that I didn’t see evidence of tackle-breaking power and I wasn’t optimistic about Ellington developing that skill due to his frame.

I was wrong about this overall assessment. However as you’ll read in my profile from the 2013 RSP, I understood the ramifications of how I’d adjust my projection of Ellington if I was wrong about his potential to develop into a more powerful back.

Overall, I’m still ok with the mistake, because it’s more important to me as an analyst that I identify the areas of a player’s game that could make a difference in his career good or bad as well as communicate the range of possibilities to my readers. A reader could have read this profile, decided that power wouldn’t be a significant issue, and still make a good decision on Ellington.

See for yourself.

Andre Ellington. Photo by Parker Anderson.
Andre Ellington. Photo by Parker Anderson.

16. Andre Ellington, Clemson (5-9, 199)

Ellington exhibits promise to develop into a lead ball carrier with NFL skill. He has the speed to bounce runs outside and execute perimeter runs to the edge. He flashes patience with his blocks and can work off them to read defenders and manipulate them in space to gain additional yardage.

He’s a very savvy runner. One of the more savvy I’ve seen in terms of pressing and cutting back as well as [winning in] the open field. He has excellent lateral agility, good – if not great – speed and quickness. Ellington also uses head fakes well enough to draw defenders inside so he can work outside.

When Ellington faces down a defender, he exhibits good pad level, protects the ball with both arms and keeps his legs moving to maximize his gain. He also carries the ball under the sideline arm. I think Ellington has the skill to become a change of pace, “situational” NFL runner. He’d be best used on draw plays, outside zone, sweeps, pitches, and screen plays.

When Ellington is decisive and doesn’t try to make the big play with a cutback, he becomes a more efficient runner. He needs to do this with greater consistency. Once he does, he should emerge as a bigger threat along the same lines as his Clemson predecessor C.J. Spiller of the Buffalo Bills.

However, I think his upside is more limited than C.J. Spiller or Reggie Bush, but he’s along that spectrum of player. He isn’t a powerful runner and he has to use every ounce of technique to get minimal yards after contact. Both Spiller and Bush had more functional power and even some tackle-breaking skill that Ellington lacks.

Ellington, like his former teammate Spiller, needs to develop greater maturity with his decision-making. He favors the cutback over making a decisive, one-cut play when he encounters the first open defender penetrating to an area he wants to go. This is often the wrong decision, and he’ll dance behind the line of scrimmage trying to make a move that gives the rest of the defense time to converge on him when he could have taken the defender one-on-one for at least a minimum game rather than no gain at all or a loss. Once he learns that the best way to beat a defender is to get to full speed, lower the pads or use a straight-arm and run through the initial wrap, he’ll become less of a boom-bust ball carrier and a consistent yardage gainer.

A willing blocker in pass protection, Ellington shows some solid technique to square his pads, get his feet under him, and deliver a double-handed punch to the chest of an oncoming defender. However his technique still needs a ton of work. He diagnosis plays well enough, but he telegraphs blocks by lowering his head into contact rather than extending his arms into a punch and keeping his head up and eyes forward.

This is another player who will likely go much higher than I have him ranked. However, I don’t see the value he’s going to bring as an every-down or lead back and his capabilities in space don’t compensate enough. If he can become a stronger runner, his upside increases substantially.

Andre Ellington Sample (Checklists and play-by-play reports)

For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2014 Rookie Scouting Portfolio – available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2014 RSPs at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.

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