While the likes of Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford have put up big numbers this year, Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott is making a case for NFL MVP.
Elliott, the fourth overall pick out in the 2016 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, leads all NFL running backs with 1,005 yards rushing, gashed the normally stout Pittsburgh Steelers for 114 yards—including a game-winning 32-yard gallop with nine seconds left—in a thrilling 35-30 win at Heinz Field.
The former Buckeye would finish with 209 all-purpose yards, which included two catches for 95 yards and a touchdown, 83 of them on a screen pass reception from fellow rookie in quarterback Dak Prescott.
Thanks to dual-threat ability in the air and on the ground, the man known as “Zeke” just may be the best all-purpose back in the NFL, not named LeVeon Bell.
While some may call this being a prisoner of the moment, but thanks to his ability to run inside or outside, speed and catching ability, Elliott has proven to be the cog in the Cowboys 8-1 first-place machine.
Some can argue that Prescott and Dallas’ monster of an offensive line deserve some consideration for MVP, due to Elliott’s game-changing plays, but for all of the criticism that Dallas took in drafting a running back so high in today’s golden era of passing, it is America’s Team that is having the last laugh right now.
Currently on pace to finish with 1,787 yards, 16 touchdowns and 352 carries, Elliott would fall 21 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s rookie record of 1,808 yards set in 1983, Elliott has a shot to become the second-ever rookie running back—and the first since Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns in 1957—to be named NFL MVP.
At 21, Elliott would also become the youngest to ever win the NFL MVP at 21 years and 163 days, compared to Brown who was 21 years and 308 days old at the end of the 1957 season, per Blake Williams of Forbes.com
To do what he has done in what has become a league more obsessed with analytics, 400-plus yard passing stats and gaudy numbers, Elliott is the perfect running back to help the NFL get back to its true roots of being a balanced league.
And lastly, last time this writer checked, but the MVP is for the most valuable player in the league. If you take Elliott out of the equation and ask yourself if we are even talking about Prescott, the Cowboys smart decision to build and address their o-line or them being 8-1?
And that is where Zeke proves his worth.
He forces teams to honor the run, which in turn opens up Dallas’ passing game downfield for Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley and for Prescott to run the zone-read option.
In my opinion, Dallas wouldn’t be where they are today without Elliott, which is why he deserves to be NFL MVP. Whether or not Elliott does win or not, his play has helped make his case, in what has been a truly spectacular rookie campaign.