Is Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott a top 10 running back in the NFL?
There has been a lot of debate about Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott in the past few years. The former fourth-overall pick burst onto the NFL scene as one of the most powerful and impressive running backs in the game. He received Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections in his rookie season and after serving suspension time in his second year, the RB1 collected two more Pro Bowl years in 2018 and 2019.
In a league where the passing game wins championships and running backs have a much shorter career span due to the wear and tear of the position, the Cowboys poorly decided to give Elliott a massive six-year, $90 million extension after 2019 even though he still had two years left on the deal he already had. No other NFL running back has a contract anywhere close to that total value. The next in line is Saints RB Alvin Kamara whose total contract was $75 million.
Since then, the Ohio State product has not been the player he was. He ran for a career-low 979 yards in 2020 and visibly struggled to get his speed and power back in 2021 as well. Yet, the running back is eating up a giant chunk of the Cowboys’ cap space.
Many fans and analysts believe Elliott has already peaked. While teammates and coaches are saying that the running back looks healthy and ready to go, it’s unlikely that even with a clean bill of health Elliott would be able to be the back he was in 2016. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t make the cut in ESPN’s top 10 running backs list ahead of 2022 as voted on by 50 anonymous execs, coaches, GMs, and scouts.
Ezekiel Elliott does not make ESPN’s top 10 running back rankings for 2022
Elliott was deemed an “honorable mention” after earning a No. 7 spot in 2021 and a No. 3 spot in 2020. Here are the top 10:
- Derrick Henry, Titans
- Jonathan Taylor, Colts
- Nick Chubb, Browns
- Dalvin Cook, Vikings
- Alvin Kamara, Saints
- Joe Mixon, Bengals
- Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
- Najee Harris, Steelers
- Aaron Jones, Packers
- Javonte Williams, Broncos
So, is Elliott a top 10 running back? Probably not anymore, sadly. The 26-year-old led the league in rushing yards per game in his first three years. Those numbers have dropped every year with the lowest being just 58.9 yards per game last season. Yes, he was injured last year. But even before his partial PCL tear, he still didn’t look his best self.
Plus, he also has Tony Pollard trying to earn more playing time behind him. Having fewer snaps could help his durability, but it certainly won’t help Elliott’s overall production.
The reality of him being worthy of being paid as one of the league’s best backs in 2022 is unlikely. We’d love for him to prove us wrong, though.
An anonymous GM from the ESPN article put it best: “He’s still a good player, but that burst he once had just doesn’t seem to be there.”