New Cowboys Addition Named ‘Most Overrated Player’ at His Position

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy

Getty Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy

The Dallas Cowboys have opted for familiarity this offseason, but one of their new additions to the 2024 squad is being singled out. In a stretch where Dallas didn’t make many changes, the return of running back Ezekiel Elliott is already drawing warnings.

In a May 21 article from Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay, he names Elliott as the NFL’s most overrated RB.

“… [The Cowboys] re-signed former starter Ezekiel Elliott to a one-year deal shortly after the draft concluded. That decision could come back to haunt the Cowboys as they try to reach an NFC Championship Game for the first time in nearly three decades. Their backfield sorely disappointed in each of their last three playoff exits, two of which featured Elliott prominently,” Kay wrote.

Kay’s argument is mostly rooted in the fact that Elliott’s production has dwindled in the past few years. It’s a fair point, but the term “overrated” feels off to describe Elliott’s situation.

After all, he’s playing on a $2 million, one-year contract according to Spotrac. It’s hard to see how he’s overrated or overvalued when he’s playing on close to the league minimum.

Elliott’s Production Regresses

Years before he left the Cowboys, it became clear that Elliott’s production wasn’t going to sustain at the Pro Bowl rate fans saw from 2016 to 2019. The shelf life of an NFL RB is shorter than ever, and Zeke is not immune to that.

2020 was notable because Elliott failed to reach the 1000-yard rushing mark despite playing 15 games. More importantly, he averaged 4.0 yards per carry according to Pro Football Reference.

He somewhat rebounded with 1002 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns and 4.2 yards per carry in 2021. But he was still less effective than his first four seasons in the league, all while his contract made him the highest-paid RB in the NFL.

2022 was the nail in the coffin, though. Tony Pollard became the feature back at that point, while Elliott was grinding out 3.8 yards per carry and being isolated to short-yardage situations.

His one year with the New England Patriots didn’t see him fare better. Elliott started 5 games and made 17 appearances, but averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and reached 642 yards on the ground.

Young Cowboys RBs Set for Major Opportunity

While Rico Dowdle and Deuce Vaughn got to back up Pollard last year, the Cowboys had franchise tagged Pollard and needed to utilize him to get their money’s worth. Now with Elliott on a cheap deal, there is far less reason to not utilize the young RB duo.

Dowdle averaged 4.2 yards per carry in 2023 and reached 505 yards from scrimmage. After three years in a very small role, the former South Carolina Gamecock had finally shown his worth. The same can’t be said for Vaughn.

Vaughn was an exciting draft pick for Dallas in the 2023 NFL draft, partially due to his father working in the scouting department. But there were plenty of questions about whether the former Kansas State star could translate to the NFL.

The Cowboys didn’t give him many opportunities (23 rushes for 40 yards,) but Vaughn failed to make noise. In an offense where the other two RBs were still effective, the rookie had a tough first year. 2024 may be a make-or-break season for the 22-year-old.