Dane Brugler, an NFL Draft analyst for The Athletic sports website, said North Dakota State tight end Ben Ellefson wasn’t a strong draft consideration entering his senior season with the Bison.
Ellefson, from Hawley, Minn., has changed that perception during his final collegiate season, and has only helped his cause this week. Ellefson has been in St. Petersburg, Fla., preparing for the East-West Shrine Bowl. The college football all-star game is scheduled for 2 p.m. (CST) Saturday, Jan. 18, at Tropicana Field and is being televised on the NFL Network.
“He entered the year barely even on the radar, so he’s trending in the right direction and I think he continued that this week,” Brugler said Friday afternoon. “He created a little bit of buzz with what he did.”
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Ellefson had 15 catches for 199 yards and five touchdowns this past season, helping NDSU win a third consecutive NCAA Division I FCS national championship last weekend. In his final three seasons with the Bison, the team posted a 45-1 record with three national titles.
“He’s not your traditional tight end,” said Brugler, who has been an NFL draft analyst for 10 years. “He’s 6-3, 250, a really compact frame so he’s more of that versatile H-back type of guy. He rolls off the line of scrimmage really quickly to get into his routes.”
Ellefson finished his Bison career with 35 receptions for 463 yards and 16 touchdowns in 59 games. His career touchdown catches are a program record for a tight end.
Ellefson was a key run blocker for the Bison, who averaged 287.6 rushing yards per game this past season. The Bison finished 16-0 to become the first college football team since the 1894 Yale Bulldogs to finish a season with that record.
“As a blocker, effort is not a question, I do think there are going to be times he’s not going to be able to overwhelm and move NFL defensive linemen on the edge, but there is something to work with there,” Brugler said.
Brugler said some NFL teams could use Ellefson as a fullback depending on the offensive scheme. He views Ellefson as a sixth- or seventh-round draft pick or a priority free agent if not drafted. The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 23-25.
“Really smooth mover, you don’t see a lot of wasted movement out there,” Brugler said. “He was consistent at the catch point. … He played assignment-sound football. That’s obviously really important. You’re looking for guys that are smart and can do their job.”