NFL Draft Preview: USC TE Rhett Ellison


September 17, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans tight end Rhett Ellison (40) runs with the ball as he is defended by Syracuse Orange linebacker Dan Vaughan (33) at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE

Name: Rhett EllisonHeight: 6″5′Weight: 251Projection: 5th or 6th round

The Trojan Way Leadership Award.  The first winner of the award was Rhett Ellison following the 2011 season.  Ellison so much embodied the spirit of the award that his name is also the nickname for the award: The Rhett “The Machine” Ellison Leadership Award.  That pretty much sums up the blue-collar worth ethic that Ellison has come to exemplify during his time at Troy.  He hasn’t gotten the marquee billing that other Trojan stars have gotten or the attention that his predecessor Stanley Havili received, but you knew he was going to show up for every play of every game.  He brought a lunch pail mentality to the bright lights of Troy.  If you looked at his season and career stats, you won’t see anything that jumps out at you.  In order to know what he brought to the field you would have to turn on game film.  What he lacks in raw athletic ability he makes up for in pure heart.

Ellison is a tweener, projecting at both fullback and tight end in the NFL.  ESPN rates him as the top fullback in the draft while CBS Sports rates him as the 8th best tight end prospect.  Due to changes in NFL offensive philosophies there aren’t many teams that still utilize a fullback in the traditional fashion.  Many teams have opted for more wide open passing attacks while using single back formations.  It is this philosophy that will push Ellison into the 5th or 6th round as he most likely will get drafted as a tight end or an H-back type of player, a position made famous by Joe Gibbs in the 80’s.  Chris Cooley most recently played this H-back position until it was phased out when Mike Shanahan took over following Gibbs’ second stint with the Washington Redskins.

While changes in professional offenses will work against Ellison as a fullback prospect, average athletic ability will work against him as a tight end prospect.  Running the 40 yard dash in the 4.8 second range means he doesn’t have the elite speed that scouts are looking for in order to get separation down the field.  He also doesn’t have the elite level lateral and change of direction ability.  What he does have is heart and this can’t be measured at the NFL Combine or a NFL Pro Day.  It can only be eye-balled on the field or on film.  Heart is something that Ellison has plenty of.

He is the type of player that franchises need to make up the core of their team.  Look for him to make the roster as a special team standout.  Special teams is something that Ellison excelled at while wearing his Trojan uniform.  He topped his career off by being voted by the Pac-12 coaches as the 2011 first team special team player.  While he will initially make his niche as a special teams player, look for him to contribute as a bruising fullback in short yardage situations and as a pass catcher out the backfield.  He should also be valuable in 2 to 3 tight end formations where he can use his reliable hands to hurt defenses that won’t be keying on him.

Ellison is certain to be a fan favorite wherever he lands.  Fans will appreciate his work ethic and lunch pail mentality.

Before the NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, be sure to read up on Nick Perry, DaJohn Harris, and Chris Galippo, some other Trojans hoping to come off the boards.

Stay tuned for our coverage of the rest of the Trojans that will be in the draft.