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Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton

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Jonathan Bales

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. . .

Scouting Report

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.

Projection

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

Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Cameron Jordan, DT/DE, Cal

Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC

Cameron Heyward, DT/DE, Ohio State

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois

Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois

Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn

Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple

Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova

Drake Nevis, DT/DE, LSU

Dontay Moch, DE/OLB, Nevada

Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona

Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Texas

JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

William Rackley, OT, Lehigh

Allen Bailey, DE, Miami

Akeem Ayers, ILB/OLB, UCLA

Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville

Jeremy Kerley, WR, TCU

Chris Culliver, FS, South Carolina

Marcus Gilchrist, FS, Clemson

 

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2 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton

  1. john coleman says:

    Well how can I argue with that? You know I have been talking about this guy and Taylor for months. Both have true NT size as you mentioned which is rare.

    I have even advocated making a play for both of these guys to use in rotation. If you could pull that off you could always trade the lesser player in a year or two. I still think Taylor is late 1st rd at best and Ellis could be in the 3rd. At #73 in the 3rd he could still be there.

    As you mentioned this would upgrade two positions with Ratliff and Brent being available for the DE position. You then have the 3 FA DE’s(Bowen, Spears, and Hatcher) plus Lissemore and Geathers to be in rotation.

    I strongly feel that you MUST have a true NT to run a successful 3-4. You then need great/good OLB’s and at least one good ILB. As has been well documented the DE’s are not expected to get a lot of sacks. However, with Ratliff at DE things could be different.

    I also forgot Olshansky, although he was a nonfactor last year.

    On a ending note, I have begun to think that a Heyward type fits our typical size/height/weight mold for DE’s.

  2. JC–There is a chance Ellis drops to the third, although I think 2nd is more likely. I would love his value in the third, or Taylor’s in a move up to the top of the second. And I would much prefer Taylor or Ellis to Heyward because a true NT upgrades two positions with Ratliff then playing primarily DE.

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