Note – due to the early signing of offensive tackle Jake Long by the Miami Dolphins, his segment in our Choose Your Destiny series will not appear. Hence, it becomes a four-part exercise.
Part III: DT Sedrick Ellis, USC
2007 stats – 58 tackles, 8.5 sacks
Career stats – 144 tackles, 17.5 sacks
Ellis gets the nod over LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey in this edition simply because he’s more likely to be available when the Chiefs are on the clock at #5 this Saturday. The St. Louis Rams and Atlanta Falcons both need interior defensive line help, and pick before Kansas City.
How could Ellis help the Chiefs? When you consider KC’s defense ranked 28th against the run and garnered only 5.5 sacks from the defensive tackle position last season, Ellis might be just what Kansas City is looking for.
The Cover 2 defensive scheme employed by the Chiefs works best when a three-technique defensive tackle is penetrating up the field and putting pressure on the quarterback. Ellis has all the skills – lateral quickness, agility, acceleration, strength - to be that player. Some compare him to Warren Sapp or LaRoi Glover.
With the trade of Jared Allen, drafting a player like Ellis would help maximize the production of KC’s defensive ends. It’s tough for any quarterback to step up in the pocket and avoid outside rushers when a tackle is screaming right in your face.
Some of you are thinking of Ryan Sims right now, the last defensive tackle taken in the first round by the Chiefs, and a colossal bust. Don’t compare Sims to Ellis, however.
At North Carolina, Sims was overrated as a prospect because he played next to Julius Peppers on the defensive line. Peppers was the dominant force on that defense, not Sims (regardless of his production).
At USC, there was no such case of mistaken identity with Ellis. Yes, end Lawrence Jackson led the Trojans in sacks last season and is coming out in the draft this year. But Jackson is rated as a second or third-round pick by most experts, and isn’t nearly as athletic or polished a player as Peppers was. There’s no question – Ellis was the engine driving USC’s defensive line.
Finally, consider Ellis’ total college production. Not just the sacks, but the complete package. He racked up a whopping 12.5 tackles for loss last season and even batted down seven passes. And then there’s his experience. Ellis played in 48 games at USC, with 36 starts. That’s a ton of playing time against top-notch competition in the PAC 10.
How could the Chiefs possibly pass on such a player? Well, it’s not such a stretch.
Just last year, Kansas City spent second and third-round picks on two interior linemen – Turk McBride and Tank Tyler. Neither had a huge impact as rookies, but given the praise heaped upon them by defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham this offseason, you’d have to think the Chiefs want to see what they have in two players they’ve invested high picks in.
Drafting Ellis with McBride, Tyler, Alfonso Boone and Ron Edwards already on the roster might lead to something of a logjam at the defensive tackle position (though if McBride and Tyler pan out with Ellis, you’d have a hell of a rotation).
There’s also the question of Ellis’ frame. At 6-foot-1 and 305 pounds, he has a compact build, with relatively short arms. There’s not much room for Ellis to get bigger as a player without losing speed and quickness.
Lastly, there are some minor injury concerns. As a freshman in 2003, Ellis suffered a left ankle fracture, and in 2006 there were issues with torn cartilage in his knee.
The final word:
Scout.com’s Tom Marino rates Ellis as the second-best defensive tackle in this year’s draft. Below is his evaluation.
"Ellis has outstanding quickness, body control, range and balance. Plays with good leverage, has extremely quick strong hands and overall explosiveness. Can stack, but was more effective playing in the gap. Far better at nose then at a three-technique. Has short arms and does not appear to have long speed. Very disruptive player in a limited area but is not second coming of Tommie Harris. A top 10 selection in this year's player draft. Solid starter potential."
Boston College QB Matt Ryan
Arkansas RB Darren McFadden
Tomorrow: Virginia DE Chris Long