INDIANAPOLIS — Ezekiel Elliott says he is not just a speed guy.
In fact, when he started playing football, he was a fullback and not a tailback because he was the biggest kid on the team. That may have been when he was 7 years old, but the mentality has stuck with him. And now that he is poised to become the first running back taken in the 2016 NFL Draft, he wants teams to know that he can be as physical as he is fast.
“I’m a guy that can play three downs,” Elliott said at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday. “You don’t have to take me off the field. I value blocking. I obviously love to run the ball. I think I have great hands out of the backfield.”
An all-around running back? Sounds like something the Giants haven’t had in quite a long time.
That’s one of the reasons why some mock drafts are predicting the Giants will grab Elliott with the 10th overall selection in April. They last selected a running back in the first round when they picked David Wilson in 2012. His career was derailed by a neck injury. But Elliott would seem to be a better fit than Wilson, who had a ton of natural ability but had to be taught the finer points of being an NFL running back.
Adding Elliott either would further complicate or fix the Giants’ current muddiness in the backfield. They spent most of the 2015 season rotating among four players at the position until they settled on Rashad Jennings in the final four games of the season.
General manager Jerry Reese seems somewhat content with the crop of running backs already on the roster: Jennings, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams and Orleans Darkwa.
“We have four good guys. I think we have four pros on our roster,” Reese said on Thursday. “We’ll continue to look in the draft, look in free agency, but we think we have four capable guys.”
That said, he pointed to the lack of a running game as one of the main reasons for the disappointing 2015 season.
“I didn’t think we were able to run the ball like you should to close those games out,” he said of the many close losses the Giants suffered.
Elliott could wind up being an impact player. He has speed similar to Wilson’s — Elliott said he hopes to run a 4.4 or 4.5 in the 40-yard dash this week; Wilson ran a 4.49 in his predraft 40 that dazzled the Giants — but a more complete game. If the Giants do select him, it will be interesting to see how they use him. While Tom Coughlin was loath to put the ball in the hands of rookies — Wilson was primarily a kickoff returner his first season — it’s unclear how new coach Ben McAdoo stands on using first-year players. Elliott could come in and join the rotation, or he could come in and become the focal point of the running game.
It could even give the Giants two of the most dynamic playmakers in the league. Imagine Odell Beckham Jr. making a one-handed catch on one play, Elliott hurdling would-be tacklers on the next?
It’s unlikely we’ll actually see that. The Giants have far more pressing needs than running back, including pass rusher and wide receiver. But depending on how active the team is in free agency and what holes they can plug in that market, Elliott could wind up staring at them when they are on the clock with the 10th pick.
“I think I’m a guy who is going to come in and work hard from Day One,” Elliott said. “I’m a guy who brings a lot of versatility to the position. I think I excel in all areas of the game.”