Plenty of NFL teams would like to land running back Ezekiel Elliott in the 2016 NFL Draft — he’s one of the top prospects available and the most highly regarded player at his position.
As for which of those teams might be head over heels for him, Elliott believes that club could be in the NFC North.
The former Ohio State star was asked Tuesday during an interview on The Dan Patrick Show to name the team that loves him. Elliott’s answer: the Chicago Bears jerseys.
Elliott was also asked whether the Cowboys and Giants are in love with him and he said he wasn’t sure. When Patrick told Elliott that the Dolphins are in love with cheap jerseys and him, Elliott said “I was thinking that, too.”
The Cowboys (No. 4 overall) pick earliest of the teams that were mentioned and likely mark Elliott’s draft ceiling. The Giants hold pick No. 10, while the Bears are slated to pick 11th and the Dolphins 13th.
Elliott is linked to each of those teams — except the Bears — in the latest NFL Media mock drafts, but he’s been connected to the Bears, who parted with longtime top rusher Matt Forte this offseason, during draft season and visited the club earlier this month. The team’s running backs coach, Stan Drayton, recruited and coached Elliott at Ohio State during the RB’s first two seasons with the Buckeyes.
If the Bears and Dolphins do indeed love Elliott, they might be tempted to trade up to ensure a chance to draft him, although it could become a moot point if Dallas takes him at No. 4 — Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on Monday that the team most likely will stay at No. 4 rather than trade the pick.
If a club’s love for Elliott is strong enough to facilitate a trade up, it will have to make Jones an offer he can’t refuse if it wants to end the intrigue about where Elliott will land before it starts.
Could that direction finally involve moving Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long to right tackle?
The Bears toyed with Long at tackle during offseason workouts, but he saw no time on the outside during the preseason.
“Do I think I can play tackle?” Long said last week. “No doubt. Will I play tackle? No idea. I am a right guard.”
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NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah noted in June that many in the NFL believed Long would end up starting the season at right tackle because a blocker of his caliber is much more valuable on the outside than at guard.
Sunday’s roster shakeup could turn belief into reality. Vladimir Ducasse jersey or Omameh could take over the guard spot if Long moves to tackle.
Given the Bears’ offensive line struggles this preseason, getting a stronger blocker on the outside is something which Jay Cutler and Matt Forte should be lobbying for heading into Week 1.
The NFL also wants to widen its net by attracting the more casual fan. That is why NFL Now veered from Xs and Os to more anything goes under Nickoll. For instance, on the heels of the presidential campaign, NFL Now created ads for players like Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown jersey on why he warranted being the top pick in fantasy football.
“We certainly provide enough entertainment for the avid fan,” Nickoll said. “But we’re looking to bringing in the casual fan. Perhaps it is that fan who is playing fantasy football for the first time. Maybe he or she has a favorite player and wholesale jerseys, and we can show that player in fun way. We’re always looking for ways to engage them.”
Nickoll, though, stresses that while the aim is to have fun, NFL Now also wants to be informative. The Sklar brothers are doing a weekly segment focusing on how a team off to a terrible start still can make the case for going to the Super Bowl. Last week, they focused on the then 1-5 Bears. While it all was very tongue-in-cheek, Nickoll says the piece contained pertinent facts about the team.
“I’ve always believed if a joke is going to land, it has to be informed by the truth,” Nickoll said. Thus far, Nickoll says he is encouraged by the results. Ratings for the weekly NFL Now show on NFL Network are up 200 percent, he said. Data shows people are spending more time watching the various segments on the site.
Nickoll only has been on the job for a little over year. He says NFL Now continues to evolve as his crew try to figure out what works and doesn’t work.
However, Nickoll insists the direction is clear regarding NFL Now.
“I see my job as trying to push the envelope,” Nickoll said. “We’ve had some situations where we’ve been asked to dial it back a bit. That’s OK. It’s a fun challenge. We’re looking for different ways to look at the NFL.”