As Ezekiel Elliott looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2020, the Dallas Cowboys star dropped in the annual ESPN running back rankings. Each year, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler publishes a top-10 rankings list at each position with the voters consisting of NFL executives, coaches and players.
Elliott comes in at No. 7 among running backs in this year’s list, down four spots from 2020. The Cowboys running back had 244 carries for 979 yards and six touchdowns. This was down considerably from his 2019 output where Elliott had 301 carries for 1,357 yards and 12 touchdowns. Elliott also had 82 fewer receiving yards in 2020 compared to the previous season. One AFC coach emphasized that Elliott still has plenty of juice on the field.
“They need to give Zeke some of Dak’s money,” the AFC defensive coach told ESPN. “He scares you the most on that offense.”
For the record, Elliott is doing just fine financially with a $90 million deal, the most lucrative contract of any running back. Elliott’s deal is $15 million more than the next back on the list Alvin Kamara, per Over the Cap. The Cowboys running back has an average annual salary of $15 million on his current deal which runs through 2026.
NFC Coach on Zeke: ‘Doesn’t Look the Same & He Fumbles Too Much’
The consensus on Elliott’s value moving forward appears to be mixed. Another NFC offensive coach believes Elliott has lost a step from the player the Cowboys selected with the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
“Doesn’t look the same, and he fumbles too much,” the coach explained to ESPN.
Elliott’s offseason has been full of praise from coaches, teammates and trainers. Even if Elliott never reaches the same heights he experienced to start his NFL career, the Cowboys rusher is still better than most NFL running backs. Fowler detailed why Elliott dropped from his previous top-three ranking.
“Some teams still view Elliott as the most natural downhill rusher in the game because of his combination of speed, power and balance,” Fowler noted. “…Why Elliott fell in this year’s rankings is easy to answer: lack of juice. He has seven rushes of 20-plus yards since 2019 and zero runs of more than 40. That’s the worst explosive-play production on this list. Some personnel people believe Elliott appears less explosive on film since signing his $75 million extension before the 2019 season. …Elliott has fumbled five or more times in three of his five NFL seasons.”
Elliott’s Trainer: ‘I Don’t Think Zeke Has Ever Worked Like This in the Offseason’
During an offseason press conference, Prescott described Elliott as being in the “best shape of his life.” It is a statement that Elliott’s personal trainer Josh Hicks believes to be true, adding it is the hardest the running back has ever worked.
“Zeke’s in good shape,” Hicks told The Athletic’s Jon Machota. “I agree with Dak. I agree with Tony. I was on the outside looking in. They’ve been with this man three, four years. They see him way more than I see him. They’ve seen him work in practice and they’ve seen him work in the offseason. I don’t think Zeke has ever worked like this in the offseason. I could be mistaken. But me, personally, when it comes to my drills and what I do and how I do it, I know he hasn’t worked like this.”
Here is a look at the full top-10 list ESPN revealed after polling players, coaches and NFL front office members.
ESPN’s Top 10 Running Backs for 2021
|1.||Derrick Henry, Titans|
|2.||Alvin Kamara, Saints|
|3.||Dalvin Cook, Vikings|
|4.||Nick Chubb, Browns|
|5.||Christian McCaffrey, Panthers|
|6.||Saquon Barkley, Giants|
|7.||Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys|
|8.||Aaron Jones, Packers|
|9.||Joe Mixon, Bengals|
|10.||Josh Jacobs, Raiders|