2014 NFL Draft Player Scouting Report – Louisiana Tech NT Justin Ellis

By Alex Kozora

Our focus has shifted to the offseason and for the next few months, I’ll be providing scouting reports on several draft prospects. Some of these players the Pittsburgh Steelers may look at and others will be top players that will be off the board before they select. All to make you as prepared as possible for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Breaking down Louisiana Tech nose tackle Justin Ellis.

Justin Ellis/NT Louisiana Tech: 6’1/4 334

The Good

– Prototypical one tech mold with above average arm length for his height (33 inches) and large hands (10 1/8)

– Wonderful athlete for his size

– Short area quickness and surprising burst

– Disruptive and made plays in the backfield

– Technically sound

– Proper hand placement and gets his long arms extended

– Plays with good leverage, keeps his butt down

– Arm length lets him shed

– High-effort player

– Good football IQ, smart, and reacts quickly

– Bull rush that lets him collapse the pocket

– Did command double-teams

– Strength appears good enough

– Dominate vs lower competition

– Strong senior year

The Bad

– Did not see elite strength

– Slight inconsistences in his game

– Can get overextended off the ball, not bringing his lower half

– Eye level drops when taking on blocks, causing him to lose sight of the play

– Gets stuck as a pass rusher and though tries to show a repertoire, isn’t effective outside of his bull

– Momentum difficult to stop once it gets going, can cause him to get pushed down the line vs zone blocking schemes

– Tendency to lead with his shoulder, fails to stay square to his blocker

– Should collapse vs double-teams a little more than he does

– Medical concerns

– Slightly older than typical prospect


– 25 career starts

– 2013: 48 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks

– 2011 Second Team All-WAC

– 2013 C-USA Honorable Mention

– Cracked bone in left foot caused him to miss first eight games of 2010

– Had shoulder scoped in 2011 though did not miss time

– Missed three games in 2012 due to a right ankle sprain

– Three year letter winner on high school track and field team

– Finished third in state shot put as a junior

– Will be 24 before rookie season ends

Tape Breakdown

A description of Ellis does need to be first qualified with the admission the competition I watched wasn’t very strong. In 2013, watched him against lowly Kansas and the even more woeful Southern Miss, arguably the worst team in Division One. Combined, those teams went 4-20. Kansas was shut out by Iowa St 34-0 and Southern Miss lost 55-14 to East Carolina and North Texas in consecutive weeks. Not exactly NFL competition to go off of but that was the tape that existed. Such is life, Mike Tomlin would say.

Ellis is Louis Nix III with better value. What jumps off the page at me isn’t Ellis’ strength as it is his movement. One of those rare guys with the ability to take up space and move. Heck of an athlete. His 28 inch vertical at the Combine was second-highest of defensive lineman weighing more than 310 pounds (Zach Kerr the highest at 28.5).

That’s the difference between a guy like Ellis and Daniel McCullers, who I noted as being a sloth out of his stance. McCullers vertical was a measly 20.5 inches. For Ellis, a three cone drill of 7.81 is excellent for his statue. He’s definitely more than just weight.

Maybe it doesn’t look like much but the fact Ellis is able to change directions as the quarterback cuts and can make a diving attempt at him is uncommon at 334. Ellis is the one tech to the weakside, wearing #70.

Final game of 2012 against San Jose State. Gets off the block of the left guard to track the running back down from behind. Again, unique athlete and that makes him special.

Dominant against Southern Miss. Tied for the team lead with seven tackles, recorded a sack, and 2.5 TFL, including this one below. Walks the center back, holds the point, sheds, and brings the running back down.

Ellis will eventually tire but that’s natural for a player at his size. Played on a lot of third downs and I absolutely love his hustle.

Starting this play halfway through because the beginning doesn’t matter. Pass thrown into the flats to the opposite hash on 3rd and nine. Ellis really isn’t obligated to make much of an attempt to chase it down. But he tries anyway, hustling downfield and taking a good angle.

Flashes a quick first step, stays with the play, and ends up forcing a fumble. That play doesn’t happen if Ellis gives up because the stretch is away from him.

While on the topic, as I alluded to, he possesses an explosive first step. Real good get off. In the still below, he’s off the line well before any of his teammates.


Part of that may also be due to his intelligence. Heady player who likely anticipates the snap count well although I don’t think that is the sole reason for his first step. That’s a physical trait as much as it is mental. But his recognition/reaction is top-notch for the position.

Though he gets blindsided by a lineman, he reacted quickly and that Jayhawk was forced to clean up the mess behind than get downfield and open up a running lane.

Repeatedly gets his hand up to bat passes down when he can’t get to the quarterback.


Again, the level of competition must be considered but the negatives weren’t too serious. The list likely looks more imposing than it really is. The largest issue probably isn’t even on the field. Staying healthy has proved to be a challenge, missing significant time in two of his four seasons. You can bet he was poked and prodded during the medical portion of the Combine and teams will have to feel comfortable with him in that aspect to keep him on their board.

Overall, he does carry his lower half well when rushing but there were moments where he would get overextended off the ball and lose balance/power.


Lined up at the one tech to the weakside in the GIF below, Ellis does get pushed down the line by the left guard and center. Running back cuts through the hole he vacated. Product of Newton’s First Law. Object in motion that stays in motion. Hard to change his momentum down the line.

Must stay conscious of staying square to his blocks. Can’t turn his shoulder and get washed. See it against San Jose State.

Of course, with any nose tackle, weight is a concern. Ellis is not an exception. In his bio, Louisiana Tech lists him at 357. He did manage to drop it, showing up at the Shrine Game at 351. By the Combine, a “svelte” 334. Concern there is he dropped weight specifically for the Combine; nearly 20 pounds doesn’t happen by chance. And some reports pegged him back at 342 by his Pro Day. Something to monitor.

It should be considered a sidebar but it’s worth noting his conference did not seem to recognize his solid senior season. Didn’t make the first or second team All C-USA. In fact, his teammate, defensive end IK Enemkpali was the Bulldog lineman to earn such honors.

Just a bit strange that he wouldn’t be considered one of the top eight defensive lineman. Reminds me when Dontari Poe was only 2nd Team C-USA in 2011 despite being touted as a top draft pick. Of course, Poe burst onto the scene last year as a dominant tackle so this may be much ado about nothing.

Based on what I’ve read and more importantly, seen, it’s safe to say I was off base when I penciled Ellis going in the sixth round to the Steelers. Not going to happen. That size/athleticism combination is too good to pass up, especially in a relatively weak defensive line class. I’ve discussed the importance for lineman to have that quality first step. To get into the lineman first and take control, not the other way around. Why I didn’t like McCullers. Why I’m a fan of Ellis.

Projection: Early Third

Games Watched:  at San Jose St (2012) at Kansas, vs Southern Miss

Previous Scouting Reports:
Buffalo LB Khalil Mack
Illinois State T/G Josh Aladenoye
Penn State WR Allen Robinson
Stanford ILB Shayne Skov/a>
Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin
North Carolina TE Eric Ebron
Auburn T Greg Robinson
Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman
Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III
Auburn LB Dee Ford
Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro
North Dakota State T Billy Turner
Boston College RB Andre Williams
South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
BYU OLB Kyle Van Noy
Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald
Tennessee NT Daniel McCullers
Colorado State DE/OLB Shaquil Barrett
Alabama T Cyrus Kouandjio
Tennessee T Antonio Richardson
Central Florida RB Storm Johnson
Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller
Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
West Virginia DE Will Clarke
Louisville S Calvin Pryor
Wisconsin ILB Chris Borland
Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews
Virginia T Morgan Moses
Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt
Mississippi WR Donte Moncrief
Central Florida QB Blake Bortles
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
North Carolina DE Kareem Martin
UCLA OLB Anthony Barr
South Carolina CB Victor Hampton
Clemson WR Martavis Bryant
Fresno State WR Davante Adams
Texas DE/OLB Jackson Jeffcoat
Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard
TCU CB Jason Verrett

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Hard to pass up if he is there when we pick in the 3rd.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    I like him, but I don’t think we should use a 3rd round pick for a NT. I actually like Ryan Carrethers from Arkansas State a little better and they should be able to pick him up in the 5th or 6th round. He is about the same size, as strong as a horse and has a background in wrestling that helps him with leverage.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Several people have commented that I sound like a broken record, but I don’t really care, so here goes…..
    Draft a NT, move McClendon to DE where he belongs, DL problems solved.

  • SteelersDepot

    you are delusional.

  • PA2AK

    Is it really that much of a stretch to consider it? Only problem I have with it is finding the right value at NT in this draft. I don’t think there is a NT in the bunch that starts this year.

  • PA2AK

    Yeah, the 3rd is a little high. Too much talent at other positions of need that will likely be there at 3. This guy isn’t a sure thing by any means either.

  • Callentown

    Nice article Alex. It would be great to see a rundown of NT’s compared by value since there are so few in this draft.

    I guess this comes down to what LeBeau and the Steelers think about Mac at NT. If they feel they’re set, it’s hard to imagine drafting one in rd 3.

    Many on this board know that I personally would like to draft a true 1-tech NT and move Mac to DE. I think what he has displayed at the NT position would make him similarly effective to Aaron Smith at the DE.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    And is Callentown delusional, given his comment below?
    Why is this such a ‘delusional’ idea?
    What evidence can you offer that it doesn’t make sense?
    And I still don’t care, for the record, LOL!!!!

  • Callentown

    Please help us delusional fans understand why Mac would not be good at the DE spot.

    I’ve seen you post why you believe he is a good NT, but not why he wouldn’t be successful at a 3-4 DE position.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    You sound like a broken record jk

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Its not to me i’m pretty sure they taught him different positions on dl fir position flexability

  • Steelers12328882

    I love these scouting reports. Nothing against Dave-Te Thomas and his player profiles, but it’s like reading the back of a cereal box. Nice to have breakdowns of plays and opinions to go along with facts.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Definitely! Much better to see a description, opinion, and visual evidence as it gives us a much better chance to form our own opinion.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Hey, guys. You guys calling for a Mac move to DE would be correct if that’s the Steeler plan. Picking a NT in the 5th or 6th and in certain situations using McClendon at DE means they don’t need to take a DE in the 1st or 2nd. But I believe the Steelers are thinking otherwise:

    They are using the base D less, plus Mac can play NT fine, and they may just want players they can insert for certain roles. You want evidence? Just look back at last year’s games and check out which players were used heavily in certain games. As an example Vince Williams played a lot usually against running teams, obviously, but was hardly used in other games.

    The Steelers probably have no intention of using a high draft pick for NT.

  • harding36

    It’s delusional because (1) NT is not a need; (2) there is not a NT in this draft that come in and start right away; (3) there is no evidence that McClendon can play DE; (4) McClendon has never played the 5 technique at the college or the NFL level; and (5) your idea would have the Steelers DL consist of a rookie NT and a DE who has never played the position; so, you have taken one area of uncertainty (DE) and replaced it with two areas of uncertainty (NT and DE).

  • James Kling

    I’ve posted before that 3-4 NT seem to have a strength threshold, where 30+ reps is minimum, 35+ is elite. I don’t feel like digging around for Casey, Ngata, Wilfork, et al., but 25 reps is below the line. MacLendon had 31. Carrethers had 32 (combine) and 34 (pro day). Kerr had 28.
    Pass on Ellis and target Carrethers in a value round.

  • steeltown

    I like Ellis, but Carrethers is one of my personal favorites as well and he could be had in the mid-late Rds

  • srdan

    Dont, he is sensitive about it lol…jk

  • srdan

    You may be onto something. I am not a fan of putting a lot of stock into one single measurable but it supports your claim…..:
    Snack 34
    Wilfork 36
    Ngata 37

  • Callentown

    Harding thanks for answering, though I was hoping Dave would chime in as he’s been saying this for weeks without explanation.

    Where I’m coming from is that LeBeau has stated that his defense is predicated on the NT occupying two blockers and pushing the pocket. Mac has not been able to accomplish this and it sounds as if the Steelers know it.

    We need a DE. Mac played DT in a 4-3 at Troy (if I’m remembering correctly) which most closely resembles an end in 3-4. 5-tech would be our OLB position.

    This is why some fans are saying the move might make sense.

    No one is suggesting that a rookie NT would start or even play. Might take a year, but at least you solve the issue with LeBeau’s defense needing a traditional (see Wilfork) NT.

  • charles

    Your description makes me think of Michael Dean Perry, who along with his brother were All America AAU divers in college.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    We hope McClendon can be a good defensive end. However, If he can’t handle centers, and he can’t, I am not thrilled about lining him up against NFL left tackles. The guy played like an undrafted undersized NT. GET SOME TALENT AND STOP FOOLING AROUND WITH guys like this, OR go 8-8 again.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    Thank you for sharing your points. I’ve heard the NT position is less complicated than the others, so a rookie could possibly start. Harding, Fans and Media can say whatever, but one way or another they will get a real NT and play him. Callentown you are right- in Pittsburgh the NT positions is very important.

  • Callentown

    Hey thanks Dewayne. I imagine we’ll start finding out soon enough with the draft just over 3 weeks away!

  • MP34

    My opinion on moving McClendon from NT to DE has changed. I’m not sure I’m for it anymore. I think it’s ludicrous when it’s suggested that Jarvis Jones should move to ILB, and then I try to suggest that McClendon could go outside, where he’s never played. I’m not sure I see how this is much different.

  • SteelersDepot

    Not sure how many different ways you people want this broken down for you being as you refuse to watch tape. McLendon was the NT on 208 running plays last season. 204 of those plays resulted in a 2.79 yards per carry average. The other four resulted in a 57.75 yards per carry average.Carry on with your witch hunt, though.

  • Callentown

    Thank you Dave.

    I envy that you are able to do what you enjoy in covering the Steelers and spending your time how you want to. Truly.

    For me, it isn’t that I don’t want to watch tape. I don’t have the time and honestly probably don’t feel the same drive that you do.

    In your opinion, are those running stats the only thing that the NT is important for? I thought I understood coach LeBeau to say that he needed the NT to push the pocket and occupy two men.

  • Steelers58

    I might be the only one who shares ur opinion.
    I would love to trade down six spots and take nix.
    We lose the battle of the LOS. I want to start dominating the LOS once again. Nix will be a stud

  • Matt Manzo

    Hoping for a report on Zumwalt?!
    He’s starting to intrigue me.

  • shawn

    Forget the stats … sorry but that is only half the story … while i agree McLendon is not bad at NT, there is no way you can honestly think he is a STUD and dominant player at his current position … u keep ignoring peoples question … why do u not think he would make a good DE and pick up a better player more suited for NT …

    For the record i dont have an opinion one way or another regarding the possibility of him playing DE, but at least back up your opinion against the switch instead of keep repeating the WAY overvalued stat of run avg up the middle … i personally think u are reading way too much into that stat … like i said is he decent yes, but could we use an improvement in that area which is so pivotal to the defensive scheme … of course !!

  • Alex Kozora

    I’d be wary of stats like that and generalizing about who can translate to the next level based on that number.

    Arm length must be considered. Ellis does have 33 inch arms. Not sure what those you mentioned have (couldn’t find much briefly looking) but longer arms have a direct correlation with less reps. Have to lift the bar higher.

    Just worth considering.

  • James Kling

    Agree and disagree.

    I agree WRT not using a single piece of datum to draw one’s conclusions. Guys who run fast combine 40s don’t always play fast on the field, and vice versa.

    But disagree WRT arm length. While arm length is a factor in 225# reps, I seriously doubt any of the successful 3-4 NT of the past 10-15 years has been out there with little 30″ T-Rex arms. The ones I noted, at a guess, would all measure 33″ and up.

    IMO the 30 rep line is a helpful eval tool.

  • Callentown

    Agreed on LOS domination!