Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech (Round 4, pick 107)
In 2010, Justin Ellis played in only four games because of a fractured foot. He recorded four tackles along with a sack. In 2011 as a Second-Team All-WAC selection, Ellis racked up 29 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. He missed three games in 2012 with a right ankle sprain. Ellis finished the season with 21 tackles and two forced fumbles. Last year, he started every game and dominated with 48 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss.
The average defensive tackle weight at the NFL Scouting Combine over the last five years was 304 lbs. At one point in 2013, Justin Ellis weighed close to 400 lbs and now weighs 334 lbs. Ellis was the largest defensive tackle in the 2014 NFL Draft. He is not the tallest player (6'1"). But he uses his height to his advantage and gains leverage by getting underneath the pads of taller offensive lineman. Ellis is a tank who can plug the middle of the defensive line with his huge frame.
One of the biggest reasons Justin Ellis fell to the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft was because of his poor performance at the Combine. Out of 28 defensive tackles who participated, Ellis finished 24th in the 40-yard dash (5.27). His vertical jump (28") and bench (25 reps of 225 lbs) were average. But his broad jump (92") was the worst of any defensive tackle in attendance.
On the field, Ellis looks much more athletic than his combine performance suggests he is.
"'Jelly' can roll, baby," said NFL.com's Mike Mayock of Justin "Jelly" Ellis. "He has some short-area quickness; got some foot quickness."
He is explosive off the ball and has a quick first step. He has tremendous size and strength (on film) and often pushes double teams backwards into the pocket. Ellis does not need to be athletic enough to cover an entire field, he just has to be effective in short bursts at a time and control a small amount of area.
Ellis is a nose tackle. He is huge, eats up space and provides great run defense. Often, people think that because of their size and slow speed over distances, nose tackles do not provide a pass rush. This is not necessarily true. While they do not have the speed to chase down a quarterback, they help provide a pass rush in two ways:
1. By bull rushing and pushing the offensive guard into the pocket. As a result, the pocket collapses and most quarterbacks will get trapped.
2. Nose tackles often take on double teams. This can free up other defenders that specalize in rushing the passer (defensive end or outside linebacker). As a result, the nose tackle is rushing the passer, by freeing up a pass rusher.
Ellis can do both of these. Watch the third play in this video (feel free to watch the entire game). He pushes the offensive guard back into the pocket and runs the lineman into the quarterback by gaining leverage and chopping his feet.
While Ellis is very good at bull rushing, he overuses the move. Bigger offensive lineman in the NFL will be able to withstand his huge frame. Unless Ellis adds more moves (swim, spin, chop, throw) to his arsenal and mixes them up, offenses will figure him out.
This is the benefit of having a nose tackle. What they lack in pass rush, they make up for in run defense. At 6'1" and 334 lbs, Ellis takes up a lot of space. His size and power allows him to physically dominate smaller offensive lineman. This is where bull rushing becomes very effective.
When he bull rushes, he first explodes off from his stance and stays low to the ground so that he can gain leverage. He then brings his hips through to generate power. All while doing this, he keeps his arms extended to create separation between him and the offensive lineman; this way, he will not be held. He then chops his feet to drive the offensive lineman backwards.
If the play is a run, he keeps charging until he gets close to the running back. Once Ellis is close enough, he violently throws the lineman off and makes the tackle. Two great examples of this are play number four and play seven in the film above.
As hard as I have tried, I cannot find any quotes from coaches regarding "Jelly's" character. I personally do not know him so this is difficult for me to assess. What I can say is that for a guy to come out of a small school like Louisiana Tech, and to improve drasticly his senior year, Ellis probably put in a lot of hard work. On the field, he plays hard and has a high motor. Watch the first play of the first film. Ellis actually got cut blocked, but he didn't give up on the play. Instead, he got back up and leveled the quarterback for a sack.
Because of his massive size, Ellis does not have the speed to chase down quarterbacks in space. He had a terrible combine and had the worst broad jump (92") of any defensive tackle that participated. He has a history of injuries and has missed 11 games because of them. Conditioning could be a concern as he often rotated at Lousiana Tech.
Ellis is very good against the run as he eats up space. Offenses will have a difficult time running up the middle with him controlling the trenches. He will free up Khalil Mack, Sio Moore and Justin Tuck by taking on double teams. Ellis has the size and strength to become a solid defensive tackle.
The Director of Operation for NFL Scouting Services, Dave-Te Thomas, told KTBS 3 Sports that he would rather have Ellis over Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III.
While Antonio Smith and Pat Sims will most likely be the starting defensive tackles for the Raiders in 2014, Ellis should see significant playing time. Sims is only signed to a one-year contract. Look for Ellis to replace him as the starter in 2015.