Ezekiel Elliott has been the most productive running back in the NFL since entering the league in 2016. But a variety of factors have made it so that now, even with two games to go, it appears Elliott will lose that distinction for the 2019 season.
Zeke won the rushing title outright in his rookie year and in 2018. And while his suspension in 2017 cost him the official rushing title, Elliott still led the league in rushing yards per game. Had Zeke been able to play 16 games instead of 10, he would've likely crushed Kareem Hunt's 1,327 yards.
But this season is different. Elliott is currently fifth on the rushing list with 1,188 yards. The current leader, Cleveland's Nick Chubb, has 1,408 yards. Between them are Tennessee's Derrick Henry, Carolina's Christian McCaffrey, and Seattle's Chris Carson.
The margins between these players come down to what they've done with their touches. Amazingly, Chubb, Carson, and Elliott have all had exactly 270 rushing attempts thru 14 weeks. Henry has had 271, and McCaffrey is close to the pack with 265.
Zeke isn't leading the way this season because of decreased productivity, not a lack of opportunity. His 4.4 average rushing yards is well below the 5.2 that Chubb is producing, or the 4.9 marks from Henry and McCaffrey.
True, Elliott might have more yardage this year if not for the emergence of Tony Pollard as a dangerous change-of-pace RB. But even without Pollard's effect, Zeke is still on pace for about the same number of carries he's had in previous seasons.
The biggest issue here is the change at Cowboys offensive coordinator. Kellen Moore has opened up the passing game more than Scott Linehan ever would, and Zeke has disappeared from games in which he would've been leaned upon in past years. The rhythm of the rushing game has not been the same.
Also not helping is that Dallas' offensive line, while still great, isn't as consistently dominant as in the past. This is a trend that we will have to watch closely as time goes; none of those guys are getting any younger.
With Ezekiel Elliott now signed thru the 2026 season, his sustained productivity will be a hot topic for years to come. Rushing titles don't mean everything, but 2019 marks the first season that we have to at least wonder if Elliott is still the best RB in football.