Oakland Raiders: Analyzing How Rookies Will Make Impact

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Justin Ellis – DT, Louisiana Tech – Round 4, Pick 107.

An unfortunate weight room incident has required offseason acquisition Antonio Smith to undergo minor surgery, which will leave fourth-round pick Justin Ellis with some extra reps during the early part of camp. Ellis is a true nose tackle who will do the dirty work on the inside, freeing his teammates up to fill their stat sheets. As a nose tackle disruption is production and that is exactly what Ellis is about.

The mantra of Oakland’s offseason has been “we want to do the pushing around” and Ellis is another draft pick who is in that mold. Dubbed “Jelly” by past teammates, Ellis is a load to handle on the inside. He has struggled with his weight issues in the past, weighing as much as 390 pounds at one point, but he showed his resolve getting all the way down to 334 pounds for the combine.

In a post-draft conference call, Ellis admitted to getting back up to 346 pounds as he talked openly about his weight issues:

Nov 9, 2013; Ruston, LA, USA; Southern Miss Golden Eagles quarterback Nick Mullens (14) is sacked by Louisiana Tech Bulldogs defensive tackle Justin Ellis (70) during the first quarter at Joe Aillet Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s been a grind because I’m a built guy just naturally. I gain weight easily but I lose weight easily too, so my weight fluctuates. I haven’t lost control of it.” Ellis also mentioned he grew up idolizing Warren Sapp and he talked about a current player he follows closely, “As far as going into the draft and the last couple of years, Vince Wilfork has grown on me a lot,” Ellis said. “I like the way he plays the game and I kind of model my game after him.”

Reggie McKenzie isn’t concerned about Ellis’ weight, saying in a post-draft conference that once Ellis starts following an NFL-grade nutrition plan, he’ll be fine. Add that with a top-level strength and conditioning program, Ellis should have no issue staying in great football shape.

Just like the offensive line, Oakland added several guys to the defensive line via free agency. With new additions Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and Lamarr Woodley to go along with returning players Stacy McGee and Pat Sims, the defensive line seems to be a bit crowded.

The main reason why Justin Ellis will be able to make an immediate impact for the Oakland Raiders is because of his niche. Expect Ellis to be used in the gap during pass-rush situations taking a lineman or two with him, creating blitz opportunities for his teammates. Ellis has active hands and effectively uses his weight as leverage to have his way with his matchup. He has surprisingly quick feet that allow him to get a quick jump from the snap. This allows him to get to the point of attack first and it’s over for his matchup once he gets to that point.

Like most nose tackles his impact won’t be seen on the stat sheet, but pay close attention to the action surrounding Ellis when he is on the field, and you’ll see how much easier he is going to make life on his teammates.