Every week we’ll be looking at the Cowboys drafted rookies and seeing what impact, if any, they had on the previous game. At the end we’ll name a “Rookie of the Week” for the standout performer.
Here’s a summary of the performances and statuses from all nine of the Cowboys drafted rookies after the Week 10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers:
Ezekiel Elliott, RB
In what’s quickly becoming one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history, Elliott saved some career firsts for a tough matchup in Pittsburgh. Zeke crossed the 200-yard mark in total yardage for the first time, helped largely by an 83-yard receiving touchdown. That score, along with two rushing, gave him his highest touchdown total in a game as well.
The 83-yard reception was the longest by a Cowboys player since 2012. That one was an 85-yarder from Dez Bryant. It’s only fitting that Zeke Elliott would come close; by far the Cowboys most exciting offensive weapon since Dez joined the team.
With 114 yards rushing, Elliott remains firmly on top of the NFL leaderboard. He is the only RB to cross the 1,000-yard mark this season. What’s more, he’s done it in just nine games. His closest competion, DeMarco Murray (930 yds) and Melvin Gordon (838 yds), have yet to get their bye week.
Jaylon Smith, LB
Smith remains on the Non-Football Injury List and it is still unknown if he will play at all for the Cowboys in 2016. This is the last week that Smith can remain on that list and not impact the Cowboys roster limit. He will likely be put on Injured Reserve on Monday.
Maliek Collins, DT
Coming off his two-sack showcase last week, Collins did not add any big plays to his highlight reel. However, he was part of helping the Cowboys limit Le’Veon Bell to just 57 yards on 17 carries. Dallas boasts the NFL’s third best run defense after 10 weeks and Collins, a starter in the base defense, is a major part of that.
Charles Tapper, DE
Tapper is on Injured Reserve with ongoing back issues. He began to miss time early in the preseason and has never been able to return to practice. The end result is, essentially, a redshirt season for the fourth-round pick.
Dak Prescott, QB
Prescott put together another gorgeuous stat line; 319 yards and two touchdowns on 69% passing. Dak’s 121.7 passer rating was his third-best this season, which given the road environment and opponent is especially impressive. A blindside hit led to a fumble on the opening drive, but otherwise Prescott was his usual fantastic self.
What really strikes you about Prescott is how he’s stepped up in pressure situations. I remember watching a rookie Eli Manning and being impressed with how, despite struggling for three quarters, he had the ability to turn it on in the clutch. For all the jokes and memes he’s generated, Eli has two Super Bowl rings and some of the biggest plays in football history on his resume.
Prescott is playing great football in nearly every situation but that late-game spark is something that will only mean big things in the years to come. The Cowboys QB job is now officially his to lose, but that pressure doesn’t worry me in the slightest. Dak has an uncanny maturity for his age and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep thriving.
Anthony Brown, CB
Sunday was the closest thing to rookie hazing that Brown has experienced this year. Drawing the tough assignment of guarding Antonio Brown, arguably the best WR in the NFL, the Cowboys’ sixth-round rookie corner had the same issues that some of the league’s best cover men face.
Antonio’s big day of 154 yards and 14 catches didn’t all come on Anthony’s watch. When Orlando Scandrick went out with an injury, Anthony Brown moved into the slot and Leon McFadden played outside. It was McFadden who gave up Antonio Brown’s only touchdown of the day, along with some other late receptions.
Kavon Frazier, S
Active and now the number-four safety with Barry Church’s injury, Frazier finally recorded his first NFL tackle. He will be used sparingly, but at least the rookie finally put something in the box score.
Darius Jackson, RB
Having yet to dress this season, it appears Jackson’s only shot at playing this year will be if Dallas has nothing to play for in one of the final regular season games. There is also the chance he could be released to make room for Darren McFadden.
Rico Gathers, TE
Gathers is still on the team’s practice squad; the only drafted player to not make the 53-man roster this season. With Geoff Swaim suffering a pectoral injury that requires surgery and James Hanna not yet ready to return, the door is now open for Gathers to get called up to the active roster. Dallas has yet to make a move to fill their need.
Like we say almost every week, both Dak and Zeke had great games. Both played huge roles in the Cowboys victory. However, one guy not only made the biggest plays but also scored when it mattered most:
Elliott scored the Cowboys’ final two touchdowns on runs of 14 and 32 yards. His 83-yard reception came with the team trailing 12-3 and sitting at 2nd-and-18 behind their own 20-yard line.
Clearly, Elliott delivered in the game’s biggest moments. While the offensive line certainly plays a huge part in his success, Elliott has already given more than enough examples of how his special talent makes a difference. Last year we watched Darren McFadden be productive behind this line, but Elliott is being truly dominant.
In Pittsburgh, he was easily the difference between victory and defeat.
Previous ROTW Winners
Week 9 – DT Maliek Collins
Week 8 – QB Dak Prescott
Week 6 – QB Dak Prescott
Week 5 – RB Ezekiel Elliott
Week 4 – RB Ezekiel Elliott
Week 3 – RB Ezekiel Elliott
Week 2 – QB Dak Prescott
Week 1 – QB Dak Prescott