Every week we’ll be looking at the Cowboys drafted rookies from 2016 and seeing what impact, if any, they had on the previous game.
Here’s a summary of the performances and statuses from all nine of the Cowboys drafted rookies after the Week 15 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Ezekiel Elliott, RB
Elliott reasserted his dominance with a career-high 159 rushing yards and a whopping 6.9 average per carry. It was a welcome sight after Scott Linehan seemed to get too pass happy in the previous week, despite the fact that Elliott was the only thing consistently working against the Giants defense.
Elliott is now 327 yards ahead of DeMarco Murray for the 2016 rushing title. He needs 258 yards in the final two weeks to break Eric Dickerson’s rookie record. This is certainly doable if he’s given the touches, but Dallas clinching the top seed before they play the Eagles in Week 17 could get in his way.
Last night, Elliott was named to the Pro Bowl as a starter. This shouldn’t be a surprise as the league’s leading rusher, nor his high profile from college and as the Cowboys’ newest sensation.
Jaylon Smith, LB
As expected, Smith was placed on Injury Reserve last week. Most did not expect Smith to play in 2016 back during the draft process. Dallas will hope that the immensely talented linebacker gets right this offseason and debuts next year.
Maliek Collins, DT
While David Irving was the noisiest defensive lineman in the game, Collins made plenty of impact himself. He had his fourth sack of the year and would’ve likely had another if Irving hadn’t beat him to the QB. Collins also recovered a fumble early in the game that was forced by Terrell McClain.
He continues to provide exceptional, immediate value for a third-round pick.
Charles Tapper, DE
Tapper went on Injured Reserve in Week 4 due to back issues. He was inactive the three games before that, making this a redshirt season for the fourth-round pick.
Dak Prescott, QB
After a week of speculation about the rookie wall and if Tony Romo might be needed, Prescott threw water on the fire. He was back to his poised and controlled play with an incredible 89% passing, completing 32 of 36 throws. He also ran for 20 yards, one of them for a short-yardage touchdown.
Prescott’s composure in this game was a night-and-day contrast to how he looked last week against the Giants. His pocket presence and ball delivery were on point. He recognized opportunities to run better than in recent weeks. Dak never looked like he was forcing anything; the game came to him and he ran the show.
The only question I have about Prescott now is how he’d fare in a shootout with one of the league’s top quarterbacks. If we see the Packers or Falcons in the playoffs, could Prescott step up to match points with Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan? He hasn’t really had to play that kind of game yet.
Last night Prescott was named to the Pro Bowl, a rare feat for any rookie and especially a quarterback.
Anthony Brown, CB
You didn’t see much of Brown this week, and that could be a sign of his increasing reputation. It also could be because Jameis Winston seemed focused on getting the ball to Mike Evans, who had Brandon Carr on him most of the day.
Kavon Frazier, S
Frazier made a great special teams play. After Ezekiel Elliott’s brief stay in the Salvation Army kettle, the ensuing kickoff was backed up on a penalty. Frazier got through the blocks and stopped Josh Huff quickly at the 22-yard-line, negating any field position benefits from Elliott’s celebration penalty.
Darius Jackson, RB
Jackson was cut last week to make room for the return of Darren McFadden. He was claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Browns, who had the first spot in the waiver order. It was reported that the Eagles, Giants, and 49ers also put in claims. He is the only drafted player from 2016 to no longer be with the Cowboys.
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.