Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton
In version 2.0 of my 2011 Cowboys-only mock draft, I had a bit of a surprise in the second round with the ‘Boys selecting Hampton nose tackle Kenrick Ellis. Ellis isn’t a player I have mentioned often, but I do think he is a legitimate option for the Cowboys in the second round. Mike Mayock recently claimed there is no way he makes it out of the round, and I agree. Despite some weaknesses and off-field concerns, true 3-4 nose tackle don’t come around often.
Further, I don’t buy into Rob Ryan’s claim that current nose tackle Jay Ratliff is certain to remain at the position. I think Ratliff will line up all over the place, perhaps playing defensive end in “normal” situations and kicking into tackle in the team’s nickel package. That may be speculation, but I do know Ryan runs a two-gap system in which a space-eating nose tackle (similar to what he had in Shaun Rogers with the Browns) is quite an asset. Ratliff is a heck of a player, but he is suited to shoot gaps and make plays with his quickness, not take on double-teams at the nose. In my opinion, he’s a natural fit for defensive end in Ryan’s scheme.
Ellis, on the other hand, is a prototypical two-gap nose tackle. . .
At 6’5”, 346 pounds, Kenrick Ellis is a mammoth. Despite those dimensions, he carries his weight very well. When you look at him on tape, he doesn’t appear to weigh as much as he does. It’s difficult to say a 346-pound man is not overweight, but he really isn’t (as it relates to football, anyway).
Because of that size, Ellis rarely if ever gets pushed back. Despite this, he sometimes gets neutralized (not pushed back, but no penetration) by just one blocker. With his size, Ellis should get penetration on pretty much every play, but he doesn’t. His leverage is inconsistent and his only solid move is a bull rush. He attempts a spin move a lot but it is rarely effective.
There are times, however, that Ellis can be dominant. After the first two minutes in the video below, Ellis is a beast. He records a sack and some pressures and, at the 4:43-mark, you can see his pursuit and hustle (and an awkward fall at the end of the play as well). Ellis’ motor is tremendous. He does fatigue at times, but I have yet to see him give less than full effort. He never gives up on a play.
In the first two minutes of that same video, however, Ellis is ineffective. He gets little push, highlighting his biggest weakness–inconsistency. It is strange how the player in the first 20 or so minutes of that game just suddenly transformed into the more dominant one we see over the next 20 minutes.
Even when Ellis is dominating, he sometimes has trouble recognizing plays or where the ball is located. Other times, he diagnoses plays quite well. Again, consistency will be key. At worst, Ellis would be an upgrade for the Cowboys’ run defense. He holds his ground and utilizes very good hand placement to make plays. Plus, his addition would really be an upgrade of two positions with Ratliff moving to end.
Although Ellis’ work on the field is tremendous, his off-field work ethic has come into question. He was dismissed from South Carolina for a few school violations, one of which was marijuana use. He was also arrested for assault in 2010, and there of course could be concerns about his weight.
Despite the issues, I can’t see Ellis dropping too far because, like I said, people of his size who can move like he does are incredibly rare. He’s no Phil Taylor, but he’s still of value to 3-4 teams. He might be a mild reach for the Cowboys in the second round, but trading back would be risky (assuming he is the guy they covet). Unlike other positions, there really aren’t too many “other” 3-4 nose tackles. If you like one, you need to grab him. Don’t be shocked to see Ellis go No. 40 to Dallas on draft day.
Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011