April 26, 2008

Sedrick Ellis, defensive tackle, Southern Cal

First Round - 7th Pick - #7 Overall
Sedrick Ellis, defensive tackle, Southern Cal
6'0, 297 pounds, 5.02 40 yard dash, 36 reps of 225

Ellis, 22, is up there next to LSU's Glenn Dorsey as the best defensive tackle in the draft, if not the best defensive lineman. Ellis is not a physically overpowering tackle, but relies on quick slashing attacks in the gaps and inside pass rush moves.

Ellis dominated the Senior Bowl and impressed at the NFL Combine, then improved his numbers at USC's pro day. He measured at 309 earlier but weighed in at just under 300 pounds at the USC pro day on April 3. It was then he ran a 5.02 40 yard dash and pressed a remarkable 36 reps of 225 pounds.

A fierce disrupter, Ellis excels at breaking into the backfield. Of the Saints' two aging veterans at the position, he has the attacking game of Brian Young and while he doesn't have Hollis Thomas' bulk, he shares the same short man's leverage technique. At just over six feet tall, Ellis beats interior offensive lineman with a very strong initial punch, a very quick set and good hand movement. Ellis doesn't overpower and isn't great at getting in passing lanes because of his height. While his upper body strength is excellent, sometimes he relied too much on it. Saints defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, who once coached Ellis at USC, will make sure that his technique is forged in fire.

A five year old ankle injury from his freshman year at USC and a two year old knee injury are concerns but the Saints checked them out thoroughly in a private visit.

Ellis was a teammate of Reggie Bush at USC, and both were recruited by Orgeron.

Rob "Boomer" Rang of NFLDraftScout.com's scouting report:

Strengths: Good burst off the snap. Can penetrate the line and disrupt the play before it really has a chance to begin. Recognizes the action and reacts accordingly. Rarely caught out of position. Powerful frame. Uses his natural leverage advantage to stack the line of scrimmage and is difficult to move, even against double-teams. Uses his hands to disengage from blocks as well as any interior senior defensive lineman in the country. Hustles down the line and will make plays in pursuit. Has improved throughout his career. The most dominant player on the field at the Senior Bowl.

Weaknesses: Lacks the size preferred for the position. Considered by some a bit of a 'tweener as he is viewed by some as neither explosive enough to be a great fit in the one gap alignment, nor big and stout enough to succeed in the two gap. Because of his work ethic Ellis may be closing on his maximum potential already and thus, have limited upside. Has had some injuries - including missing three games in 2006 due to surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee and missing most of the 2003 season due to surgery to repair a fractured left ankle. Slower than expected in drills at the Combine, dropping him in the eyes of some teams.

Alternatives: The Saints could have stayed put and likely landed Ellis' teammate Rivers, assuming that the Bengals would have taken Ellis over Rivers. New England clearly wanted Tennessee LB Jerod Mayo and Jacksonville traded up for Florida DE Derrick Harvey. The price that the Saints paid was decent, especially landing a fifth round pick in return, as they keep their draft class at six players. Compared to other trades, the Saints' compensation also appears to be favorable at first glance. The Saints and Patriots reportedly worked out terms of the deal and applicable scenarios on Friday night. The Saints did give up their valuable early third round pick, one of the first picks of Sunday morning.

Impact on Saints: Ellis should compete immediately for a starting job with DT Brian Young. At the very least, he will enter the rotation at defensive tackle. He has two great mentors to learn different aspects of the game from. Ellis can watch Young for the finer points of gap penetration and how to fight double teams. Ellis can watch Thomas for points on how to deal with taller offensive lineman and how to plug the run. On top of that, Orgeron coached Ellis at Southern Cal and is familiar with Ellis' motivational buttons. Its a fine place for Ellis to enter the league on a team that needs to get younger at his position.

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