“With the fourth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select Ezekiel Elliot, running back, Ohio State.”
While I’m not sure if that’s exactly what Roger Goodell said back in April, those words would change the fate of the Dallas Cowboys for years to come. They also set forward the greatest discussion in recent draft memory of selecting one player over another – Elliot over then-FSU and now Jacksonville Jaguars defensive back Jalen Ramsey. Many people, including myself, believed Elliot was the wrong choice for several reasons. For starters, Ramsey was also a premium talent at a much more difficult position to play at the NFL level. There was also the fact that Dallas had gone out and signed Alfred Morris in the offseason, a player with a proven track record of being a very good starting halfback. Throw in the loaded 2017 RB class – Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey – and one could have argued the Elliot pick made absolutely zero sense at all.
Well, hindsight’s 20-20, and after five weeks, there isn’t a single person who could convince me that Elliot was not the correct selection .
The Cowboys are 4-1, and probably should be 5-0 if not for Terrance Williams’ Week 1 blunder. They have a rookie QB who was only supposed to be a backup, but was thrown into the fire when Tony Romo got hurt. Their number one wideout, Dez Bryant, is not fully healthy. And while their defense has been healthy and Morris Claiborne has experienced a renaissance, this isn’t an elite unit that can shut teams down without help from the offense. All of that justifies the selection of Zeke before one even gets into his impact as an actual player.
I was watching SportsCenter Sunday night, and I heard this mind-boggling stat: Elliot became just the third rookie RB to rush for 130 yards in three consecutive games. The other two were Mike Anderson in Denver (whom I’ve never heard of) and Eric Dickerson in Los Angeles (whom everyone has heard of). He has also had a significant impact in terms of catching the ball and blocking, easily becoming a reliable three-down back. Outside of a couple of fumbles, the OSU product is already making a name for himself as one of the best running backs in the entire league.
This is not to say Ramsey has been bad. Even though the Jags are 1-3, it only took him a couple of weeks to establish himself as the team’s top corner. No, this is more to say that Elliot was definitely the correct choice. Without him, Dallas is definitely not 4-1. Dak Prescott probably makes more mistakes than he has to this point, and the defense doesn’t play with the lead nearly as often. He makes everyone’s job so much easier because of his presence on the field, an impact I’m not sure Ramsey could have had.
Dallas made this pick based on the impact Demarco Murray had as the best rusher in the league a few years ago. Dallas won 75% of its games, and Murray led the NFL in rushing yards. It has only been five games, but it is easy to see a scenario where both of those things are accomplished by this year’s team. However, unlike the last time, Jerry Jones won’t make the same mistake he made with Murray and let Elliot get away as long as he’s playing at this level.
This is the type of impact a top-five pick should have. At this point, Zeke is making Jerry Jones look like a very smart man.
Cover Photo courtesy Fansided