After rarely seeing time over his first two seasons in burnt orange, Deshon Elliott rose up draft boards with a big-time Junior year. Elliott picked off six passes, took two to the house and was named unanimous first team All-American and first team All-Big 12. Is he a one-year wonder or a legitimate prospect ready to build on?
Elliott spent most of his season in centerfield. In that role, he was able to roam the field and make plays from sideline to sideline. In his speed for his size is going to have NFL teams buzzing, and thinking that they can get a center field ball hawk. Watch the play below as Elliott is able to chase down Ronald Jones II, a back known for his speed.
As mentioned, this ability usually comes from center field. A lot of Elliott’s six interceptions were about him being in the right place at the right time.
Still, a free safety who is not out of position is exactly what you are looking for. Watch the play below as he has the deep field in cover-1. Elliott is reading the quarterback like a book. He does not get sucked too far over to the sideline and clearly reading the quarterback and the ball, as he squares up in perfect position to make an easy catch.
Again, Deshon Elliott is in the right place at the right time for the interception off of the tipped pass. Still, watch him turn on the jets afterward. He has the vision of the field and pure speed to make impact plays that change games.
Elliott can also come into the box and defend man. Watch how fluidly he is able to turn while defending the slot receiver on a wheel route. He is stride for stride with his man down the field.
Man is not his greatest strength, but he can find comfort reading the quarterback and using his athleticism to make strong breaks on the football. The play below is a key fourth down stop.
Elliott takes strong comfort and knowing when he is ready to break on passes downhill. This is what makes him intriguing in centerfield. He is disciplined and does not bite much, but when he does, he is coming in a fury to separate the ball from the receiver.
He is also quick to come down to make tackles after the catch. A third down turned into a punt because Elliott was able to step up and make the tackle below.
Lastly, Elliott is not afraid to lay the boom in the least. In a clean hit, he is able to punish the Iowa State receiver for attempting to go over the middle on his field.
Elliott is fast and understands angles, but his change of direction is lacking. It takes him time to fully gear and fully slows down to change speeds. As highlighted in the play below, this can really cost him when trying to patrol the deep center of the field.
— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) February 6, 2018
If he misreads a play or is out of position by even a step, he is likely going to take himself out of plays. This also makes man coverage with quick breaking wide receivers near the line of scrimmage a task for him.
Byard can play near the line of scrimmage and he can play deep. No matter where he plays, he finds the ball. Instincts and understanding of where to be seems to aid him in similar ways to Deshon Elliott. Last season, Byard broke out into the NFL scene with eight interceptions in his second season. While a team may take some time to work on Deshon Elliott, the big splash plays could come in fast bunches like they did for the Tennessee Titans safety.
Fit for Pittsburgh Steelers
With talk that Mike Mitchell may be released this offseason, a fit like Deshon Elliott may be a good one. The team mixes up their safety alignments here and there, but Mitchell is hardly ever playing man. He is taking deep half, third or the deep field as a rangy free safety.
This is where Elliott is going to be best with his weaknesses against quick-footed receivers and misdirection. Elliott will be able to sit back and diagnose before making his breaks on the ball. He can run sideline to sideline and downhill, which is where the Steelers will need him.
His questions in coverage will scare some teams off and likely will push him to the Steelers second-round pick. If the Steelers are confident in his tendencies between the ears, he could be a great Mike Mitchell replacement for the future.