Is Ezekiel Elliott the NFL’s top running back? The answer may surprise you

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 23: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys makes a face as he walks toward the end zone to kneel before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 23: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys makes a face as he walks toward the end zone to kneel before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

While Ezekiel Elliott is definitely among the best, is he the absolute best back in the league? The answers may surprise you.

Ezekiel Elliott has been a force to be reckoned with since he first set foot into the NFL. Dominating in his rookie season, the end of that season saw him awarded not only Pro Bowl honors but also a First Team All-Pro selection.

While Zeke only played in ten games during his sophomore season with the Dallas Cowboys, he still managed to get within 17 yards of having a 1,000 yard season that year as well, but he has still amassed over 4000 yards in just three seasons in the league.

Although his rushing attempts and yardage were down last season in comparison to his rookie season, the two in which he played full seasons, he did manage to more than double his output as a receiver from any of his prior seasons with a total of 77 receptions. With a total amount of 381 touches, he was responsible for 2001 yards from scrimmage on last season for the Cowboys.

Even with all of the production though, along with the accolades such as an All-Pro and two Pro Bowl selections, there is a question that must be asked. Is Zeke the best back in the NFL?

Well, according to he was not the number one rated back coming out of last season. He wasn’t even a top five back at the end of last season according to them, as Elliott was the 23rd ranked running back in 2018.

The top five backs in order 1-5 according to PFF were Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns, Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans, Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints, and Chris Carson of the Seattle Seahawks. How many of those guys would you take over Elliott? None if you asked this guy, whereas only one would even leave room for consideration in Barkley of the Giants.

Chubb seems to be a nice back, but he has only done it for one season and if we are being completely honest, he only was the starting back for nine games in that one season. Derrick Henry is a solid big back, but he isn’t nearly as versatile or consistent as Elliott is, only amassing over 1000 yards once in three seasons. That was last year for the Titans, while he has never had more than 15 pass receptions in a season.

Saquon Barkley is a legitimate contender if you match them up side by side, however Zeke also had a stud rookie year, and one in which he was on a competitive team. Barkley has only played a hand full of semi-meaningful games, with the Giants being out of the hunt for much of last season, with the point here being that he needs to be as consistent in as competitive of environments as Zeke has performed well in.

Kamara is a wizard with the ball, a lightning bolt of speed, quickness, and agility. A couple things that help him in these specific athletic areas are his small and compact frame, but that doesn’t bode well for being an every down back. In example, he has never played an NFL game without being apart of a stable of running backs, although he was the best among any of those bunches.

He can do everything on the field, but for how long and how much can Kamara give you before his body tells him that he’s had enough? Carson is also a very good back, but he has only been the full-time guy for one season. Although he did manage to rack up 1151 rushing yards last season, he only brought in 20 pass receptions, and that was on a team that was seemingly devoid of a ton of major offensive weapons.

You could look at all the stats if you like, it would paint the same picture. Although there may be one or two areas that a certain guy or another is slightly better in than Zeke, there is no one as good in all areas as he is. The only other guy in his class when it comes to completeness is Todd Gurley, and after signing a huge deal this past season, he may not be healthy enough to finish out the terms of that deal.

While no one can definitively say that Zeke is the best back in the league right now, there are a few facts that are certain. One of those facts is that he is not the 23rd best back in the league, as there aren’t 22 other backs in the league that are better than him. While I can’t say that there is no back in the league slightly better or on par, there are not two backs in the league that can do what he does as consistently as he does, while also doing as much he does.

Next. Dallas Cowboys - 30 greatest players in franchise history. dark

So to answer the question, is he the best? Arguably, but he is certainly within the top three. I would challenge you to name the other two that are better because in all actuality there is only one other guy that could perhaps claim the title over the Cowboys workhorse.

For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, subscribe to PFF’s EDGE or ELITE subscriptions at