2017 Rookie Profile: Elijah Hood- The Next Jordan Howard?

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Welcome to the fifth installment of the 2017 “Rookie Profile” series. In the last part of the series, Cory Evans talked about the “Human Swiss Army Knife” in Christian McCaffrey, whose abilities stretch much greater than the label of tailback. Versatility is his name to fame, but this time we get to talk about a true to form, traditional power running back, and bruiser in Elijah Hood, a junior out of the University of North Carolina.

NFL Pro Day
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Elijah Hood did not participate in running and other drills at the NFL Combine other than the bench press. According to the Charlotte Observer, he strained his hamstring training for the combine. The former Charlotte Catholic standout, however, did participate in UNC’s pro day on March 21st.

Looking at the statistics, Elijah did improve his draft stock by producing a 4.58 on is 40- yard dash time. That is .02 difference than that of the speedster Alvin Kamara, who we previously dug into. His 18 reps on the bench were above average but only tied for 13th amongst other tailbacks in his draft class. That’s a bit of a let down due to the constant praise and mention of Elijah Hood being one of the biggest “gym rats” on the UNC campus, and being on the elite side of weightlifters that the Tar Heels have seen in a long time. It was even reported that he was even banned from trying to squat more than 635 pounds once he hit that benchmark in the weight room! He uses that power and combines it with some stellar balance in order to run through tackles and adjust his run to contact in order to obtain maximum yardage. This is important in the NFL, running through everybody is not always easy at the next level. Let’s expand on that and see how he did overall at the college level.

Collegiate Production
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Elijah Hood was just an absolute beast as a high school running back in Charlotte, NC, running for over 3,000 yards in both his junior and senior seasons. He graduated early from high school to join the Tar Heels for spring practice in 2014, which resulted in him being able to contribute so quickly in his freshman year, despite missing four games due to injury. By the time he was completely healthy in 2015, Hood ran like a freight train over the ACC conference competition, obtaining second-team all-conference honors and racking up the best in rushing yards and touchdowns totals in school history. He was the true bell-cow and every down back. Also having a mobile quarterback in Marquise Williams (think a much taller Tyrod Taylor) also helped in the style Hood was able to run that year and increase the stat line.

Getty Images Sport / Grant Halverson

Being only a few short hours away from Keenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, I was able to see one of his breakout games that season against Illinois last year. He went off for 129 rushing yards, averaged 8.1 YPC, and ran in a TD with one defender on his shoulders, and the other dragging behind his hips. He really showed off his willpower and vision in how he carved the Fighting Illini alive that afternoon. He started 11 games in his junior year, grabbing a third-team All-ACC recognition, even though his carries were down as he shared them with his backfield running mate and another 2017 draft prospect, T.J. Logan. Adding to that scenario was the emergence of a high QB prospect in this year’s draft class, and the first-year starter, Mitchell Trubisky. This change of circumstance put in place more of a pro-style play and staying in the pocket more to target wide receivers, due to the great arm Trubisky harnesses. The coaches then put more of Hood’s pass-protection skills into play, which only helps scouts see what else he is capable of at the next level.  He also missed two games this past season, including the Sun Bowl, due to undisclosed medical reasons. Originally, Hood planned on returning to Chapel Hill for his senior year but ultimately decided to go forward with entering the draft closer to the declaration deadline.

Even though strength, vision, balance, and pass-protection are some his greatest assets, there are just a few weaknesses seen overall in Hood’s game. Overall, he just lacks the speed to live a life other than that of a grinder and punisher at that next level. He is going to have a hard time getting around the edge on a consistent basis against NFL linebackers. Early traffic and clutter in the backfield is his arch nemesis. He gets tangled up too quickly, especially in short yardage situations.  He has the vision to find a hole in the defensive line and proceed through, especially in lots of shotgun formations or in I-form, but lacks the agility and elusiveness to create any more opportunities. He very much needs a point of entry to be effective. He has this battering ram style that won’t allow him to get sneaky enough to slip through and bleed through the creases defenses may show. He is a wrecking ball and would be much more well suited for any team needing that downfield force to just push through and get those tough yards needed for third and fourth down conversions.

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Fantasy Outlook

This is where it gets interesting and why so many people are comparing Elijah Hood to the running back that turned fantasy sensation last year in Jordan Howard. We’ll go ahead and get this part out of the way real fast so we can get to the meat and potatoes: Elijah Hood is not a starting RB. He is not going to be draftable in re-draft leagues. To be honest, he may go under the radar for awhile and sit on the waiver wire. However, opportunity is king. Last year, the Chicago Bears lost their starter in Jeremy Langford, who in 2015 took advantage of a Matt Forte injury, and made a case to be the starter for the 2016 season. Sure enough, as fate would repeat itself, Langford goes down with an injury, and a mid-rounder with almost uncanny combine statistics as Elijah Hood gets the chance to make a name for himself. Jordan Howard is the RB1 and bruiser who runs the exact downfield way as Hood did in college and owns the backfield in Chicago now. Let’s take a look at Jordan Howard’s combine stats just to show you how close in comparison these two are and why the case of a significant incident and proper team placement could lead Elijah Hood to a starring role for an NFL team.

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Just in looking at both tables in this article, you’ll see where an inch separates them in height, the weight is the same, Hood had only 2 more bench repetitions and only beat Howard out by .01 in the 40-yard dash. Howard is able to show a bit more athleticism with his vertical and broad jumps which make him a tad more elusive at the pro level. However, both are powerhouses built almost of the same cloth, hence why Elijah Hood’s pro comparison shows up as Jordan Howard. The question is can lightning strike twice? Like the guys on podcast keep saying, most times opportunities are gonna outweigh most natural talent.

On the dynasty side of things, it’s a bit different. According to Pro Football Focus, they currently have Hood as their 17th overall running back in a very deep and talented RB draft class. Most mock drafts have him anywhere from 2.10 to the 3.05 range. If your dynasty team is strong at running back and you need to focus on wideouts or tight ends, this draft class is the year to do it. This class of 2017 is so deep at RB, WR, and TE! You could take a Corey Davis and O.J. Howard in the first two rounds, then take this behemoth tailback in the third round if he’s still on the board. It’s all about how aggressive or conservative you want to be. Only you will know if you’re ready to contend for a “Footclan Title” or if you need to rebuild just a little bit longer.

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