The Dallas Cowboys have lofty expectations for their 1st round rookie running back, Ezekiel Elliott. But are the expectations high enough?
The Dallas Cowboys made some noise in the 2016 NFL Draft when they selected RB Ezekiel Elliott with the #4 overall pick. Their highest draft pick in decades went to a position that many in the NFL refuse to even consider in the first round.
But Ezekiel Elliott was an elite talent — a transcendent back, much like Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. The Cowboys felt Elliott was too good to pass up and he would instantly make the Cowboys an unstoppable force on offense.
He better be, right?
Otherwise, why the hell would the Dallas Cowboys draft him?
The Dallas Cowboys have arguably the best offensive line in the NFL. It’s thought that virtually any runner could have success behind a unit and scheme like the Cowboys have. Case in point: Darren McFadden.
Darren McFadden, a career disappointment, came to Dallas with seven years of experience and only one 1,000 yard season to speak of. The former 4th overall pick found his way into Dallas last season and immediately saw success, rushing for 1,089 yards.
Darren McFadden didn’t suddenly get better. He just saw more daylight. In fact, his yards before contact increased roughly the same amount as his yards per carry. He didn’t play any better, he just ran further before getting touched.
Look how good the Dallas Cowboys’ last top RB, DeMarco Murray, fared outside of Dallas last season. It’s not so easy running when you don’t have the NFL’s top-ranked offensive line blocking for you, is it?
Which brings us back to Ezekiel Elliott…
Darren McFadden, an average RB at best, finished the 2015 season as the NFL’s #4 rusher. What a difference a great O-line makes. If Ezekiel Elliott really is everything the Dallas Cowboys expect him to be, why then would we be satisfied with anything less than NFL rushing champ?
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In recent months, many around Cowboys Nation are “boldly” predicting that Elliott will break 1,000 yards and win offensive rookie of the year. “Boldly” is in quotes because there are probably half-a-dozen rookie RBs that could accomplish such goals behind the Cowboys offensive line.
Zeke is special, remember?
Alfred Morris may have looked great in the preseason but make no mistake, he will have a secondary role when all is said and done. Elliott is going to be the bell cow this offense rides into the playoffs. With Tony Romo’s absence, the offense will be leaning on the running game more than ever. That means big things for the Cowboys’ rookie.
We can’t expect 400-500 touches like DeMarco Murray had in his final year with the Cowboys but we can expect something easily over 300. 300 carries at five yards a pop would put Zeke right at 1,500 which would have been enough to be the NFL rushing champ last year.
Adrian Peterson, last season’s rushing champ, earned nearly 1,500 yards on 327 carries. This season, without a move-the-chains QB within sight, Peterson will see far more schemes singularly focused on him. Repeating success will be tricky for the 31-year old All-Pro.
Sans Romo, Ezekiel Elliott faces the same obstacle. It will be up to rookie QB, Dak Prescott, to convert those drive-extending 3rd downs and force defenses to play the Cowboys honestly. If the preseason is any indication, Prescott seems up to the task.
If Darren McFadden can collect over 1,000 yards (4th in the NFL) and do so only starting half the season, imagine what a once-in-a-decade runner like Ezekiel Elliott can accomplish? Simply gaining 1,000 yards and winning rookie of the year would be disappointing considering the circumstances.
Set your expectations high for Ezekiel Elliott. After all, the Dallas Cowboys already did when they drafted him with the 4th overall pick. It’s rushing champ or bust for Zeke this year.