Cowboys Star Favored Among ‘Dark-Horse’ Contenders for 2020 NFL MVP

Ezekiel Elliott

Getty Ezekiel Elliott

No running back since 2012 Adrian Peterson has been named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, an honor reserved almost exclusively for quarterbacks.

That trend could be bucked this year, however, as analyst Adam Schein grouped Dallas Cowboys stud RB Ezekiel Elliott among the “dark-horse” candidates to win 2020 MVP.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Dak Prescott. That said, I’ve always been of the opinion that Zeke makes Dak, not the other way around. Elliott is the star at The Star.

Yes, his production dipped a bit last season. OK. A) He got off to a slow start after a contract holdout. And B) Must be nice when your production can dip to 1,357 rushing yards, 54 catches and 14 total touchdowns.

Dallas will win 11 games this year under new head coach Mike McCarthy. Zeke will be unstoppable as a runner/receiver. Book it.

One might counter Schein’s argument to allege that if Dallas were to go 11-5, it meant Prescott — whom McCarthy’s offense will revolve around — was the biggest benefactor. Such is the reason Vegas sportsbooks are giving Prescott the sixth-best odds (+1800) to take home the MVP award, while Elliott (+2800) is seen as a distant contender.

But McCarthy never was gifted a back of Elliott’s caliber amid his 13 years as the Green Bay Packers’ head man. Nobody close. The most productive was, of all people, Ryan Grant, who totaled 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns on 282 carries in 2009.

Compare this to Zeke, who’s eclipsed 1,300 rushing yards in three of his four NFL years, save for a suspension-shortened 983-yard 2017 campaign in which he missed six games. The two-time rushing champion finished 2019 as the league’s fourth-leading rusher with 1,357 yards and 12 scores on 301 totes.

Now that he has a true workhorse at his disposal, McCarthy won’t shy away from making him a focal point, rather than heap the entirety of the offense upon Prescott’s shoulders. A potent aerial attack will open up more running lanes, and vice versa.

Which spawned McCarthy’s vow that Elliott is “going to get the football” this season.

“Let’s make no mistake about that,” he said in his introductory Cowboys press conference. “I think you have to clearly understand when you saw the offense is going to make a quarterback successful, the best play to make him successful is a great run game. We clearly understand what we have here and how we could build off of that.”

To be sure, Elliott will need to turn in a truly heroic campaign to trump the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson — the projected MVP frontrunners. It’ll have to resemble Peterson’s 2012 output: a whopping 2,097 yards and an incredible six yards-per-carry, with 27 rushes of at least 20 yards.

It appears unrealistic, to say the least, given the Cowboys’ glut of talent, through which Prescott should greatly benefit.

But if there’s any runner in the league capable of joining Peterson in extremely rarified air, it’s the $90 million man.

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