The Cowboys got themselves a star running back when they made Ezekiel Elliott their first-round pick in the draft. The selection of Elliott created quite the stir as many fans were not expecting the team to throw their best draft resource at a running back. The question on everyone's mind now - is he worth it? While the answer to that question will be revealed over the course of his career, we decided to check in with the people over at the Ohio State SB Nation website. I had the chance to talk to Christopher Jason of Land-Grant Holy Land to help us learn a little more about the Cowboys new half-shirt wearing running back.
Blogging The Boys: The Cowboys are trying to build a good culture of "right-kind-of-guys" and value players who have good personal character. Elliott's passion for winning is evident, but fans don't really know that much about the kind of person he is.
We've heard his coach say this about him...
"I love Zeke because he's very humble, he comes from a great family, and he understands the offensive line deserves the credit," Meyer said in the interview room. "However, he's the most underrated back in America. He's the most post-contact-yards guy I've ever been around, and on top of that he's a great human being. We get him for at least one more year, so I can't wait."
But then we've heard stories about partying with Joey Bosa when they were roommates, although Zeke hasn't gotten himself in any trouble.
What type of person is Elliott and do you think there is anything about his character that should concern the Cowboys?
Land-Grant Holy Land: The most overrated "issue" regarding Elliott's character came after Ohio State's 17-14 loss to Michigan State, where he only carried the ball 12 times in his final home game, which also happened to be in a driving rainstorm. After getting only two carries in the second half, Elliott tore into the offensive play-calling and announced his decision to leave.
"I think I do deserve more than (12) carries," Elliott said to reporters. "I think I really do. I mean, honestly, I can't speak for the play calling, I don't know what was going on, I don't know what they were seeing, but honestly it didn't work out. It wasn't working."
He added much more than just that one quote; however, that was the only time his character ever came into question during his three years in Columbus, and most would argue that it showed his extreme competitiveness and his will to win. If you want a player that wants the ball in the biggest games of the season (check his numbers in the 2015 College Football Playoff), then Elliott is your guy. Not to mention he comes from two great parents who were instrumental in Ohio State's recruiting of big-time players and in his life.
BTB: When Elliott gets on the field in Dallas, he will be running behind the best offensive line in football. It's going to be a real treat, and he'll love it. But can you tell me about what he had to work with at Ohio State? On tape, he looks like he's got lanes to run in, but how much of that was the offensive line and how much was Zeke?
LGHL: There is no question that Elliott has been blessed with a terrific offensive line during his two seasons as a starter and a brilliant coaching staff (other than the Michigan State debacle). But what makes Elliott special is his ability to see the hole, plant his foot into the ground, burst through the crease and quickly accelerate to the second level, which is where he does most of his damage. No doubt he had some large holes to work with, but if any other back on the roster had his vision, acceleration and football IQ, they would have started over him or made similar plays when Elliott was taking a breather. Don't forget that the other running backs on the Ohio State depth chart are also top recruits and were just as or if not more heralded coming out of high school than Elliott. It shows the tremendous amount of work that he put in on the practice field and in the film room that separates him from the rest of the guys in the running back room.
BTB: Beanie Wells was the last Ohio State running back to be drafted in the first round, but he had a short NFL career with just 23 starts over a four-year span. With how much running backs are devalued these days, fans are skeptical of taking a running back early in the draft. Cowboys' fans were conflicted about making such a large investment at running back, but I want you to help us put our minds at ease.
What is it about Zeke that makes him the exception to the norm?
LGHL: Personally, I am not a huge proponent of drafting a running back in the top 10; however, if there is one back who is complete and worth it, it would be the Ohio State product. Elliott is a three-down back who can run through the defender, or make him miss. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield and run over the oncoming cornerback. Also, without playing a down in the NFL, he is already one of the top pass blockers in the league, and unlike some of the other backs who have come through Dallas recently, he is extremely durable and has the endurance to play a ton of snaps. As a defense wears down in the second half, Elliott gets stronger.
BTB: I could go on and on pointing out all of Elliott's first-rate attributes (and if you ask the readers of Blogging The Boys, they'd be able to validate such). From his toughness to his afterburner speed, he checks off all the boxes. One thing I particularly enjoy in a running back is his shiftiness. Mike Mayock said," he's as fast sideways as he is forward."
What is your favorite quality about Zeke?
LGHL: This was touched on in the previous answer, but I would have to say Elliott's pass blocking (and physicality), which is what will allow him to see the field right away in Dallas. His physicality showed early on as a true freshman, where he lit up a Purdue kick returner.
When he got the starting gig his sophomore year after Carlos Hyde left for the NFL, his pass blocking and lead blocking on jet sweeps, and designed quarterback runs were a thing of beauty, and this continued until his very last game. When he was asked to pass block, he would constantly jar defensive linemen or blitzing linebackers off-balance. When he was asked to be a lead blocker, he would either execute the perfect cut block to spring the runner or blow up a member of the secondary, or even an outside linebacker. It got to the point where it was almost more exciting to watch him lead block on a sweep than gain 10 yards on a rush. The best thing about it too, is that it is not half the time or just when he feels like it; it is every single time that he is asked to perform the task.
BTB: Elliott has already had success at AT&T Stadium when he helped the Buckeyes take down the Oregon Ducks in the National Championship game. He rushed for four touchdowns that game. At that rate, he'll have 32 TDs at home for the Cowboys this season. While those expectations may be a tad bit high, what do you think is a reasonable expectation for Zeke during his rookie season with Dallas?
LGHL: Ezekiel Elliott is a complete back. As a sophomore, he played the entire season with a broken wrist and was forced to wear a hard cast on his left hand. He finished that season with 28 receptions in a run-first. Dallas has depth behind him with Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris, but in all honesty, neither possesses the three-down talent to truly take away Elliott's snaps.
I predict 1,250 yards, 45 receptions and 12 total touchdowns.
Thank you Christopher Jason for taking the time to answer these questions.