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5 things to know about new 49ers DT Jordan Elliott

Mar 12, 2024 at 5:02 PM


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Jordan Elliott became one of the newest members of the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday as the team continues a significant overhaul of its defensive line.

Elliott (6-4, 303) was the third defensive lineman to agree to terms with the 49ers since the start of the NFL's "legal tampering period" on Monday, joining defensive ends Leonard Floyd and Yetur Gross-Matos. The 26-year-old defensive tackle is heading into his fifth NFL season after spending the first four years of his professional career with the Cleveland Browns, for whom he totaled 98 tackles, five sacks and eight tackles for loss.

Elliott comes to the 49ers with an interesting history when it comes to battling immaturity. He's made some candid observations about those issues in the past, but he's taken steps in the right direction and has an opportunity to put it all together as part of one of the NFL's more talented defensive lines.

Here's what to know about Elliott as he begins his time with the 49ers.

All-everything in high school


As a standout at Westside High School in Houston, Texas, Elliott had all the accolades a college fan would want in a recruit. He was rated as a top 100 overall prospect nationally by multiple recruiting websites, was selected to the U.S. Army All-America Bowl, and was a first-team All-State performer at Class 6A.

"Jordan was an extremely dominant high school football player," Westside head coach Jomaul Mason told the Houston Chronicle in 2020. "He was the type of defensive lineman every team had to prep for. He was silly sometimes like most kids but an absolute beast when the lights came on. He's one of the best football players I've ever coached."

Elliott signed with the University of Texas coming out of high school, but his days as a Longhorn wouldn't last.

A forgotten automobile, a transfer, and an emergence


Elliott saw playing time in six games as a true freshman at Texas, but he was unhappy with his situation and quickly made up his mind to transfer. At one point during his time at Texas, Elliott got his car towed after forgetting to display his parking pass, but because he was able to get around without it, he was in no hurry to track it down. When he finally did, he discovered the car had been auctioned off.

"I didn't know where they were towing it, and they would never answer the phone," Elliott told The Athletic in 2019. "Two weeks go by, and I'm still trying to find it, and I go to this lot where they towed my car. And the car's gone."

If Elliott's lack of focus cost him a car at the University of Texas, his renewed focus helped jumpstart his career at his new school, the University of Missouri. Elliott improved his diet and determination at Missouri, which helped him lose 30 pounds and turned him into a highly-touted NFL prospect. Elliott finished his time at Missouri with 68 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and a second-team All-American designation in 2019 before declaring for the NFL Draft.

Being questioned about his maturity before seeing a dream come true


After posting a 5.02 40-time at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 4.73-second 20-yard shuttle, a vertical jump of 27.5 inches, and 24 bench press reps of 225 pounds, Elliott went in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft to the Browns.

Elliott told reporters in 2020 that his mother's boyfriend dreamed about him being selected by the Browns before it came to fruition. But he had his eye on the Browns for some time before that happened.

"That was the team I wanted to go to from the start. It was just something calling my name about the Browns," Elliott said, per the Akron Beacon-Journal. "I don't know. I felt like it was something that was meant to happen."

Elliott had question marks surrounding his maturity heading into the draft, in part due to the fact he made commitments to three other colleges (Michigan, Baylor, Houston) before settling on Texas.

"That was part of that immaturity. That's not me anymore," Elliott said, per the Beacon-Journal. "When you wake up in the morning you hope you're not the same person you were the day before. It's all about growth. That's just my mindset. That was just a small piece of the puzzle."

But despite his excitement about becoming a Brown in 2020, things became more challenging for him than expected once his NFL career started.

A shaky start that led to some serious self-doubt


Elliott played in 32 games over his first two NFL seasons with four starts and totaled 31 tackles and 0.5 sacks. But he had some struggles on and off the field, in part because he was miserable.

Elliott had difficulty in the dedication department over his first two seasons, telling the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram that he only trained once or twice a week and wasn't as serious about his career as he needed to be.

"I've definitely had self-awareness but I didn't have the motivation," Elliott said before the 2022 season. "The lack of focus, the lack of attention to detail, just not being a pro. I was self-aware but I wasn't self-aware to the point I wanted to improve. It's taken me just till now to understand it."

Things didn't get much better in 2022. He started 17 games for the Browns with 36 tackles and two sacks, but he was the target of a lot of criticism, which included Pro Football Focus rating him as one of the worst defensive tackles in the league.

The whole experience left Elliott wondering if he belonged in the NFL.

"I had doubts," Elliott told the Chronicle-Telegram in 2023. "I didn't even know if I was even cut out for this, for the NFL. Just being real."

Elliott's Pro Football Focus grade remained low in 2023, but his performance improved, as did his approach to the game.

"He's been more even-keeled. He's really locked in and made a decision to do the best he can and control what he can control," All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett told the Chronicle-Telegram. "At the end of the day, it's not always in our hands and most of life is just reacting to the cards you're dealt. And he's done a great job of not allowing the little stuff to get under his skin."

Another motivating factor


Starting a family can very often result in someone growing up in a hurry, and that was the case for Elliott in 2022. He became married with children in 2022 and decided he needed to refocus his career for them.

"It makes you grow up fast," Elliott said, per the Akron Beacon-Journal. "It forces you to because you want to leave something for your kids, have something for them. I'm in a position where I can do that. I don't want to throw that away. That was the biggest thing, it's for them. That's how I look at it."

Elliott will now open another chapter in his football career after agreeing to terms with the 49ers. With Arik Armstead searching for a new home after his release and Javon Kinlaw now with the New York Jets, Elliott could have plenty of opportunities to take a step forward once he gets to the Bay Area.
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