Andre Ellington has been an exciting and frustrating player ever since the Arizona Cardinals drafted him in the sixth round in 2013. He flashed early, was absolutely fantastic in the second half of his rookie season, but has since been banged up with an assortment of injuries -- turf toe, a foot issue and a hernia. He even came out of college with durability issues. He had a bad hamstring at the Combine. He had foot issues while at Clemson.
Now, entering Year 3 in the league and the Cardinals with a guy they believe to special in David Johnson, Ellington is in a position where he might find himself out of a job. The team doesn't want that, but general manager Steve Keim knows it might be a reality.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday at the NFL Combine, Keim said the is no doubting his dynamic talent. But the injuries are an issue.
"It's no secret, he's got to stay healthy. I've told Andre that personally" he said. "We love his skill set, but it's no secret the guy has had durability problems. As an organization, you have expectations and if a guy doesn't fulfill those expectations, you may have to move on."
That's not what Keim wants.
"I'd love to keep Andre long term," he said. "We've talked over and over about him being a 20 to 25 touch guy a game. I don't know if he can do that; he's got to prove that he can do that."
Ellington no longer needs to be a 20-25 touch guy. David Johnson is that guy now, Keim stated. But Ellington is set to make nearly $1.7 million in 2016 because of playing time escalators. The team is considering bringing back veteran Chris Johnson. Ellington hasn't really played special teams. If he ends up behind both Johnsons on the depth chart, that will be a necessity or he will likely end up being released.
Will this be the year he finally stays healthy, or will he quietly fade away in to Cardinals history like many other late-round running backs who flashed early on in their career?