Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis has started for the University of Southern California Trojans for the past two seasons. He had a rough start to his collegiate career in 2003 when the team was forced to designate him as a medical redshirt due to a mid-season ankle fracture. Ellis also missed several games because of a knee surgery during the 2006 season. Ellis suffered a setback with his knee injury in 2007 causing him to miss several practices when he had fluid drained from his knee, but he did not miss any games.
Despite these injuries, Ellis showed excellent aggressiveness when pursuing the quarterback. He has above average "field smarts," which he used effectively to beat double teams and bat balls down at the line of scrimmage.
Ellis measures in at 6-foot 1/2, 309 pounds, which is considered on the small side for an NFL 3-4 nose tackle. He projects more as a 4-3, one-gap style defensive tackle when you look at his size. He has the ability and versatility to fit the 4-3 alignment despite being more of a two-gapper, so it will be interesting to see how teams view him on the next level. Some suggest that he could make the move to a 3-4 defensive end, but that seems like a transition that may never come to fruition. Adding more bulk could inhibit his speed, which is one of his best attributes coming out of college.
Ellis had a dominating season in 2007, producing 58 tackles, including 12.5 for losses of 75 yards. He also logged 8.5 sacks for minus-67 yards, seven pass deflections, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries while starting all 13 games for the Trojans in 2007. In the 2006 season Ellis was awarded the Pac-10 Conference's Morris Trophy as the best defensive lineman, even though he missed three games in 2006 due to his knee injury.
Ellis has a great first step and excellent ability using his hands to get past offensive lineman. Ellis is very strong, performing well both at USC as one of the few Trojans ever to bench press more than 500 pounds. At the 2008 NFL Combine, he completed 34 repetitions in the bench press event, placing him tied for third place against his fellow defensive lineman overall in this category. His incredible strength is surprising given his small frame.
Ellis is equally good at harassing the quarterback as he is at stopping the run. He is known as a no-nonsense player that always plays through the whistle.
Working well down the line of scrimmage, Ellis seems to have a knack for always knowing where the football is. He is of high character and is known for a being a locker room leader at SC.
One of the only negatives when projecting Ellis into the ranks of the NFL is his lack of size when compared with the great NFL defensive tackles. While it seems crazy to consider 309 pounds to be light, it could be difficult for him to clog the middle if he is given the two-gap responsibility of a 3-4 nose tackle rather than a 4-3 defensive tackle. Similarly built New York Jets defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson has faced this exact problem since the Jets adopted a hybrid 3-4 defense two years ago when head coach Eric Mangini was hired.
Not only is the weight of Ellis a concern to some, but his 6-foot 1/2 height arguably offers more to be worried about. That type of height doesn't allow him to bat down a lot of passes at the pro level, but Ellis views his height as a source of leverage.
Ellis also has a questionable injury history that could scare off some teams. Ellis missed significant time due to injury in both the 2003 and 2006 seasons for the Trojans; his lack of size could allow him to get injured easier when playing against the larger and more talented offensive lineman in the NFL than he did in college.
At times, Ellis is overly aggressive and puts himself out of position to make a play against the ball carrier.
Expected Draft Placement
Ellis is a top-flight defensive tackle and arguably is the best prospect at his position in the draft. Several of the teams near the top of the draft could use a player like Ellis. The Miami Dolphins (No. 1), New York Jets (No. 6), Cincinnati Bengals (No. 9) and Oakland Raiders (No. 4) could all stand to improve at defensive tackle; all of them pick in the first half of the opening round. Unless Ellis has a less than stellar showing in his team visits he shouldn't drop past the ninth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, which is held by the Bengals.
About Jason Krzywicki
Jason Krzywicki has been a KFFL contributor since 2005.
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