The Cowboys sent shockwaves through the NFL with the 4th overall pick by selecting Running Back Ezekiel Elliot, arguably the best offensive talent in the draft. But what can we really expect from the Ohio State standout this season.
Firstly we look at the talent “Zeke” displayed at Collegiate level with Ohio State. The skill that jumps right off the film is his vision and decision-making, which allows him to find gaps in a defence and turn them into sizeable gains. The O-Line at Ohio State managed to open up plenty of gaps for him, but even when they struggled and could only create small running lanes, Elliot would still plough on through and grind out the hard yards. Combine this with his elite agility, which allows him to change direction with relative ease; he should be able to find plenty of gaps behind the Cowboys Offensive Line. Not only can Elliot graft out the hard yards at the line of scrimmage with his agility and vision, but when he gets into the secondary then watch out, he can make multiple defenders miss and has the speed to get away from some of the quicker DBs in the league. His pass catching ability is above average out of the backfield, so he could well be spelled by Lance Dunbar at the beginning of the season; but with a bit of progress he could be a true 3 down back in the NFL, who could run off a long 70/80 yard TD at any point.
The Cowboys fans will be re-watching the tape over and over again, licking their lips with excitement. Elliot only needs the smallest of gaps to operate, but behind one of the best O-Lines in the NFL he will have plenty of opportunities to gain first downs and allow Jason Garrett’s team to chew up the clock. The success had by DeMarco Murray in 2014 and to some extent Darren McFadden in 2015 was gaps opened up in the centre of the field and the RB powering through; a role that Elliot will thrive in. If Elliot can get going early and often in the season, this has the long term benefit of less pressure on Tony Romo, their main issue last season which lead to him missing much of the season.
The only criticism scouts would have over Elliot is the fact that he may wear down quickly, given his lack of fear for contact and will attack defenders looking for the extra yard rather than preserve himself. With the hefty workload, over 600 touches in his time at Ohio State, those hits plus the bigger hits he’ll receive in the NFL could results in a quicker deterioration towards the end of his career. The Cowboys aren’t too concerned with this, given that the Romo window may be shutting within the next 3-5 years and have a win-now mentality.
The addition of Elliot vaults the Cowboys right back into contention for a surprisingly tight NFC East this year. With Romo, Elliot and Bryant leading the way, there’s a good chance they can replicate their 2014 formula for success. Watch out NFL, Ezekiel Elliot is the real deal.
Blake is a Washington Redskins fan after getting into NFL in 2012 to further his American Sports obsession. When he’s not shouting “You Like That!” in the winter, he plays/manages the Birmingham Outlaws and watches the Washington Nationals; and mixes in watching Bath City. Follow him on twitter @FinneyBlake.