As this past week moved along and we inched closer to the start of the NFL Draft, the fight for Ezekiel Elliott seemed like a lost one.
All signs seemed to point to Jalen Ramsey, that is, unless the Chargers snatched him first. Instead the Cowboys decided to sort of shock the world with their selection of Elliott at #4 overall with Ramsey still available.
It is easy to get excited about the selection of Zeke. Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and now Zeke Elliott with that incredible Offensive Line in front of them gives this offense a chance to win each and every week.
Of course, there are some detractors who came out of the woodwork last night to give their two-cents on the Cowboys selection.
The main argument against the pick seems to be that which was shared by CBS Sports NFL writer Pete Prisco. They argue that while Zeke is a fantastic player, and this offense has now added another dangerous element, 4th overall was too early to select a Running Back. Especially considering the Cowboys more pressing defensive needs.
Elliott Grade: D. Like the player. Hate the position.
As excited and as hyped as I am to see Zeke in the Star this season, I have to admit that I had shared some similar doubts with people like Prisco. At first, I questioned why we would want to pass up on a game-changing type defensive player, like Jalen Ramsey, for just a Running Back. Why, when the Cowboys were able to net a top 10 rushing offense with Darren McFadden as their leading rusher, would they suddenly “overvalue” the position and grab one in the top 5.
The simple answer I have come to is that, Zeke is much more than just a Running Back.
Offensively, Ezekiel Elliott adds a whole new dimension.
You might think its a dimension we haven’t seen since 2014 with DeMarco Murray, but you would be wrong. It goes back even farther than Murray. Zeke is a much more complete back right now than Murray ever was, even during the 2014 season.
At 6 foot 225 pounds, Elliott possesses more quickness, toughness, better vision, and better footwork than Murray. In addition, Elliott’s ability as a pass catcher gives him the versatility to be used on every down, no matter the circumstance. Zeke also shows a willingness to block, something that can not be taught. He is far and away the best pass blocking back in this draft class.
Elliott is a dynamic talent at Running Back, one the Cowboys haven’t had since Emmitt Smith, and he will add a whole new dimension to this already dangerous offense.
What makes him worth the #4 pick, however, is how he improves all phases of the game.
I know it may sound odd at first, but drafting Running Back Ezekiel Elliott does improve our suspect defensive unit.
Once the weather gets cold and the games seem to matter more, we always hear the same saying; “When you go on the road, you pack your defense and your running game.” Zeke gives the opportunity to do both.
In 2014, during the Cowboys 12-4 run, they ran 182 more plays than their opponents. During last years nightmarish 4-12 campaign, the Cowboys ran 82 fewer plays than their opponents did, and their overall number of plays went down by 145 plays. On top of that, the Cowboys ran 508 rushing plays in 2014, to only 408 in 2015.
What does this all mean? For starters, less plays run by your offense means more plays with your defense on the field. When you put this defense on the field for more plays, and more time, you start to see them break down, give up points, and lose games.
The lack of takeaways and big defensive plays can, to an extent, be drawn back to the offenses’ inability to make plays themselves. Their inability to stay on the field and sustain drives substantially hurt the defense over time.
The best example I have for this would be the Green Bay game a season ago. The Cowboys offense sputtered all game long, suffering 3-and-out after 3-and-out and scoring only one touchdown all game. It was absolutely brutal to watch.
Defensively, after a rough first quarter, Dallas played rather well. They held the Packers to just 14 points until the final 5 minutes of the 4th quarter. But, after a while, the defense just simply broke down, and let up 14 more points during those last 5 minutes.
Ezekiel Elliott gives the Cowboys a chance to improve on this deficiency. He gives the Cowboys a chance to run those extra 50-100 plays, and keep the defense fresh for as long as possible. He gives the Cowboys the opportunity to utilize their 2014 winning formula, but to do so with an even better back than they had during that season.
So, when #TeamZeke wins, we all win. Even defensively.