Ezekiel Elliott an easy first

INDIANAPOLIS The fact that there’s any debate over whetherEzekiel Elliott is a first round NFL Draft pickis an insult to how good he is.

Elliott, the bestand healthiestrunning back prospect since Adrian Peterson nine years ago, has no real weakness and nothing working against him except for the position he plays.

Despite the fact one back coming off a major knee injury (Todd Gurley) and another with major passing gameissues (Melvin Gordon) went in the first round round last year, "the running back is devalued" story line remains in play for 2016.

Running back by committee be damned; that thinking ignores the fact Elliott is arare complete back who would be special in any year.

Elliott can power through the tacklesand explode to the outside. He showed elite speed (4.46in the 40 yard dash) for his prototypical size (5 11, 226) at the Combine. He ran over the toughest college players in the biggest games at Ohio State. He can make big blocksas a pass protectorand big plays as a pass catcher.

FANTASY SOURCE: Early RB rankings

He’s not a Buckeye looking to buck a trend, however.

"I’m a guy who’s going to work and work hard from Day 1," Elliott said."I’m a guy who brings a lot of versatility to the position. I’m a guy who can play all three downs and, I think, excel in all areas of the game."

Elliott rackedup huge rushing totals with hard and fast running the past two seasons in Columbus, but that’s not what impressed his teammates.

"Some of my favorite plays of him were of him blocking people or cutting people," said offensive tackle Taylor Decker, one ofOhio State’s many other first round talents. "He’s going a million miles an hour and whoever is ahead of him is going to get hit. He loves it. He always talks about how he wishes he could be a lineman. He’s kind of got that mentality and attitude. Youappreciate a guy who gives you some love."

IYER: Buckeyes stud JoeyBosa makes it easy to like him

That willingness and effectiveness as a blocker is the capper. NFL coaches should be drooling over the immediate impact Elliot will provide to their backfields.

After Elliott called out the Buckeyes’ offensive staff for giving him only 12 carries in a frustrating 17 14 November home loss to Michigan State a loss that ended his team’s quest for a second straight national championship he could have been perceived as not always beingin line with his coaches.

Instead, Elliott turned those comments intoan opportunityto build on his immense talentand give his future coaches something more to like.

"I’ve grown up a lot since then. That was a great learning moment for me," he said."I was emotional, but I think what teams want is a competitor. He’s auctioning off the custom cleats he wore Friday at the Combineto help victims of domestic violence.

Despite all of that, severalmock drafts don’t have Elliott going until No. 20 overall to the Jets or 10 spots worse than Gurley and fivespots worse than Gordon. Most other mockshave him slotted tothe Redskins at No. 21 orto the Texans at No. 22.

SN MOCK DRAFT: See where we haveElliott going

Sure, those teams have the biggest backfield needs, but he should be considered a whole lot earlier.

The Cowboys, at No. 4, hadrunning back issues last year, and it wouldn’t hurt to have Elliott enter as Greg Hardy exits. The samegoes for the Ravens at No. 6. They saw Justin Forsett and the rest oftheir backfield devastatedby injuries and are ripe to find a longer term replacement for Ray Rice.

The Dolphins (No. 8), Buccaneers (No. 9) and Bears (No. 11) all have veteran lead backs who are about to become free agents. The Giants (No. 10) and Lions (No. 16) could use Elliott to fixtheir shaky committees.

When it gets down to it, any team that hasn’t takena clear cut young workhorse in one of the past couple drafts could use Elliott; their running and passing games would receive a surefire upgrade.

Not only Elliott is that good, but there’s a significant drop off afterward, even with Alabama’sHeisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry next on the board.

Every coach and team should want Elliott, even though many don’t think they need him. The ones who think differently early in the draft will make everyone else think they should have done the same.