Ezekiel Elliott brings nothing of value to the Browns

The Cleveland Browns did not add another running back in the 2023 NFL draft, leading to a fictional linkage to free agent running back Ezekiel Elliott. With just Jerome Ford, undrafted free agent Hassan Hall, and hybrid player Demetric Felton as the only running backs on the roster, the conversation around Elliott has grown louder.

And this has much more to do with him playing football two hours south of Cleveland than anything he has done on the field over the past three seasons.

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If anything, this offseason has shown a belief in the second-year explosive back in Ford. While the Browns may not be content with just Chubb and Ford as the only backs worth distributing carries to, Elliott does not bring anything valuable to the team and is not worth the money or carries he would siphon.

Elliott has been one of the least efficient runners in the NFL

The place to start the conversation with Elliott is that he is a poor runner of the football. Which is the predominant role of a running back.

In terms of Football Outsider’s DVOA metric, Elliott fell as the 24th-best back, behind the likes of Rhamondre Stevenson and David Montgomery. He had a negative DVOA in 2023, finishing at -.9%.

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When looking at rushing yards over expected (RYOE), Elliott is again in the negative. RYOE takes into consideration field position, defensive alignment, and situation to determine how many yards a back should gain in that given context.

And Elliott contributed negative yards over expected.

Browns Ezekiel Elliott
Browns Ezekiel Elliott

He is an inefficient runner, has declined steadily over the past three seasons, struggles to scratch and claw for four yards per carry, and contributes even less in the passing game.

 

Elliott is a net negative in the passing game

According to PFF, Elliott ranked near the bottom in just about every receiving category of running backs that saw at least 25 targets in 2023.

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There were 49 running backs that met this minimum threshold of 25 targets a year ago, and among them, Elliott ranked 48th in yards per route run, 45th in missed tackles forced, 47th in yards after the catch, had the third highest drop rate, and was 42nd in passer rating when targeted.

Elliott has no alignment versatility, is not going to be a mismatch in the passing game, and struggles to even make an impact when the football isn’t directly stuck in his lap (and even struggles when it is).

This is not a running back that brings anything of value to the field on passing downs. The Browns would be better off adding J.D. McKissic if they are truly looking for a back to use in the passing attack and on third downs.

Designated pass blocker on third downs is not an NFL role

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The Browns just parted ways with the archaic fullback and now we are advocating for essentially a sixth offensive lineman on passing downs? That is not an NFL role or a niche that is even remotely worthy of a roster spot.

If the best argument given for adding an inefficient running back with no juice and no positives as a receiver is that he is a good pass blocker, then the argument can be reduced to essentially adding a sixth undersized offensive lineman for one particular situation.

It’s a non-starter.

For the TL;DR crowd

The real peace and solace come from the fact that the Browns would never even consider adding Elliott. However, the talk is too loud throughout the fanbase right now not to provide some analysis on the topic.

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Elliott is an incredibly inefficient runner who has struggled to even scrape four yards per carry over the past three seasons and a massive negative in the passing game as a receiver. The strongest argument for adding Elliott is that he is a good pass protector out of the backfield, effectively making the argument for adding a sixth designated blocker on passing downs. That’s not a role that is present in the NFL or one that is worthy of a roster spot.

The Browns have the trust in Ford. This has been apparent based on their unwillingness to add another back to the roster to this point. Ford is explosive, certainly has more explosiveness than Elliott or Kareem Hunt at this stage of their career, and deserves the right to fill the role of Robin to Chubb’s Batman.

Still in need of a back who has alignment versatility and the ability to contribute in the passing game, Elliott does not check any of the boxes of the type of running back the Browns are currently looking for.

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Story originally appeared on Browns Wire