Rookie Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has lived up to the billing as a top five pick in 2016 NFL Draft. Selected at No. 4, Elliott’s lauded physical running style and blocking was looked at as a plus to complement the Cowboys offensive line and quarterback Tony Romo. While the idea of the offensive line and Elliott complementing each other has come to fruition, the combination of Romo and Elliott has not. Instead, Elliott has paired with fellow rookie Dak Prescott to form the NFL’s most lethal one-two punch even though the pair are both newcomers to the league. Elliott’s stats so far through 11 games have been staggering; he’s rushed for 1199 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s also added 24 catches for 303 yards and a touchdown. His stats and play have led to the speculation that he could possibly win both the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and the NFL MVP. Could Elliott win both awards, which hasn’t been done since fellow running back Earl Campbell in 1978? According to Dallas News Sports Day, it’s highly possible.
“Elliott leads the league in rushing and has thrust himself into the MVP race now that the Cowboys have won 10 consecutive games to improve to an NFL-best 10-1.
“Only three running backs in NFL history have had at least 1,199 rushing yards through their first 11 games: Elliott, Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson.
“Elliott has hit the gas pedal of late. He has two rushing touchdowns in three of his last four games.
“Elliott said Thursday all the MVP talk “sounds good.”
“‘But it’s not really what we’re focused on,’ Elliott added. ‘They can say ‘Dallas Cowboys MVP, Dallas Cowboys offensive line MVP.’ Those guys are great. They’re beasts. They’re why I’m successful.'”
Many detractors will point to the Cowboys offensive line as a main factor of Elliott’s success. The offensive line, led by offensive tackle Tyron Smith, have helped open up major running lanes for Elliott to run through. But it’s Elliott’s runs after the blocks, his physical blocking in run support and pass protection, that not only made him such a high draft pick, but also in the candidacy for the MVP race.
But there are some pundits who believe the MVP doesn’t belong to Elliott or a running back. Because of Prescott’s play, a lot of the press believe the MVP really belongs to Prescott, who has been putting up great numbers himself (67.9 percent completion rate, 2835 yards passing, 18 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and 108.6 Quarterback Rating).
“Those in favor of an Elliott MVP award make a compelling case but not compelling enough: Ezekiel Elliott isn’t the most valuable player in the NFL and, frankly, no running back ever is.
“It all boils down to the semantics of the prize. Most valuable player. Which player is of the greatest worth to his team? Which player, if taken away from a roster, would be missed the most? The answer is always — always — a quarterback. They’re what makes an NFL team go. That’s not to say every specific team’s MVP is the quarterback (cough, Houston, cough), but when it comes to the MVP of a league, there’s never been any other position player deserving. Great quarterbacks are always more important than great running backs. Always.”
As aforementioned, the quarterback is the cornerstone of the franchise and therefore the most important player on the roster. But there is strong evidence that Elliott’s stats and play could vault him above that perception. There is still five games left to play and Prescott and Elliott still have much to prove and a No. 1 seed to lock up in the NFC. But if Elliott continues his strong play as a running back and blocker, there’s a very good chance the Offensive Rookie of the Year and the NFL MVP could both belong to him.
[Featured Image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]