Playing behind Ezekiel Elliott for the entirety of his rookie contract, Tony Pollard has been forced to wait his turn. It became apparent early on in his career, though, that Pollard would give the Dallas Cowboys no other choice but to give him carries behind the former All-Pro.
It took until Pollard's third year that he logged a respectable workload. He finished with over 700 rushing yards on a whopping 5.5 yards per attempt that ranked second in the NFL among running backs. He added 337 receiving yards to give him over 1,000 scrimmage yards for the first time in his career.
In 2022, Pollard became the guy in Dallas' backfield. Though Elliott out-touched him by 38 carries, Pollard was by far the better back.
It's long overdue, but Pollard is finally getting the recognition he deserves. He's no longer the best-kept secret in the Cowboys' offense. He's largely labeled as the second-most important weapon behind CeeDee Lamb.
Offseason position rankings might not resonate with fans, but Sports Illustrated's running back rankings have Tony Pollard ranked inside the top-five (!) and ahead of a future Hall of Famer at the position.
Cowboys' Tony Pollard ahead of future Hall of Famer in RB rankings
SI's rankings admittedly might give Pollard too much credit, but it speaks volumes he's garnering recognition as a top-five back.
Christian McCaffrey topped the rankings, followed by Nick Chubb, and reigning rushing champion Josh Jacobs. Pollard checks in at No. 4. Behind him is Derrick Henry, who's the unnamed future Hall of Famer as a three-time rushing champ and one of the best backs of his generation.
The rankings are rounded out by Saquon Barkley at No. 6, Austin Ekeler, Jonathan Taylor, Aaron Jones and Travis Etienne, respectively.
That's some impressive company for Pollard. Again, the former fourth-round pick eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career last year. However, he did so on just less than 200 carries. Among RBs who logged at least 150 carries, only Aaron Jones tallied more yards per attempt than Pollard's 5.2.
Perhaps these rankings were made with a 2023 projection in mind. WIth Ezekiel Elliott gone, Pollard is the undisputed top dog in Dallas' backfield. Ronald Jones is the only other back on the roster with starting experience, and a number of Cowboys talking heads would be stunned if he made the 53-man roster.
Behind Jones, there's Malik Davis, who totaled 38 carries as an undrafted rookie, former undrafted free agent Rico Dowdle, who has seven carries in his career -- albeit largely due to injuries -- and rookie sixth-rounder Deuce Vaughn.
Bottom line? If Pollard stays healthy this season, there's no reason to think he won't cement himself as a top-five running back in the game.