Stack them up and knock him down, that’s been Ezekiel Elliott‘s mindset as it pertains to running the ball since entering the league in 2016. I’d say that mindset has served him pretty well, especially considering he’s been the leading rusher in the NFL twice in the last three seasons. If not for his shortened 2017 season due to suspension, he likely would’ve gone for the trifecta.
Based on Ezekiel Elliott’s accolades alone, it’s hard to imagine any other running back in the NFL is a serious contender to challenge for the rushing title in 2019. Zeke of course will have to avoid another suspension that could be coming from the Las Vegas incident he was involved in, and stay healthy, but from where I’m sitting it’s his, and his alone, for the taking. Who can challenge him?
The Los Angeles Rams running back has the skill set and talent around him on the offensive side of the ball to be a threat, but unfortunately for Gurley, his recent durability issues likely knocks him out of contention. His knee issues date back to his Georgia days with the Bulldogs, and most recently popped up at the end of the 2018 season and carried over into the playoffs. It’s rumored he could be done as a lead back because of this, seriously hurting his chances about but rushing Zeke.
Maybe Saquon Barkley?
The New York Giants second-year RB had a fantastic rookie season in 2018 and is in every sense just as talented as Ezekiel Elliott, but he doesn’t have the same kind of talent surrounding him. The loss of Odell Beckham Jr. puts an even bigger bull’s-eye on Barkley’s back, making him the focal point of opposing defenses game plan. Shut down him, and the Giants offense likely gets shut down as well. This is especially true if rookie Quarterback Daniel Jones ends up starting earlier than expected as a rookie.
What about David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell?
Let’s start with David Johnson, the Arizona Cardinals top running back. He sustained a wrist injury in Week 1 last year that ended up costing him the rest of the season. He might be one of the top RBs in the NFL, but the Cardinals are one of the worst teams, evidenced by their 2018 win/loss record that earned them the No. 1 draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. With a rookie QB (Kyler Murray) and a first-year head coach (Kliff Kingsbury), it’s hard to imagine Arizona turns things around anytime soon. Johnson however could have a good year, just not one that will come close to out doing Zeke.
That brings us to Le’Veon Bell, who decided to sit out the entire 2018 season due to a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now with the New York Jets, Bell has a chance to reinsert himself in the mix of the top RBs in the league, but it’s not going to be easy. The Jets aren’t nearly as talented on the offensive side of the ball as the Steelers were during Bell’s time in Pittsburgh. He’s pretty much in the same situation as Barkley, the other RB in New York. He’s not surrounded by much talent and opposing defenses should be able to focus their attention on him.
That’s about it. I don’t envision any other running backs in the NFL as a threat to Ezekiel Elliott’s claim to the 2019 rushing title. Like I said earlier, it’s his to lose.