When the Dallas Cowboys selected Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, the team got the best running back coming out of college. When you combine that with the exceptional offensive line the organization has built, the possibilities seem endless. After leading the league in rushing in two of the last three seasons, it appears to be a perfect fit. Zeke is fantastic.
Last year, a new college running back took center stage as the New York Giants drafted Penn State star Saquon Barkley. With an inaugural season that featured over 1,300 yards rushing and 2,000+ total scrimmage yards, the rookie wasted no time making his presence felt. And just like that, Barkley has been labeled the top running back in the league, but is he?
There’s a case to be made that Barkley is the top running back, but he’s the new shiny toy and the infatuation is always stronger with newer things. Is one year of service enough to earn the top spot?
Elliott has a nice résumé so far as he already has over 4,000 yards rushing. Some will point to those numbers being volume stats, but Zeke is averaging 101.2 yards per game, which is the second most in the history of the NFL, trailing only Jim Brown. Elliott is one of those “checks of all the boxes” guys. He runs with power, he’s got excellent vision, he’s got nice jump-cut ability, and he’s got breakaway speed. He’s a physical player who can lay the wood in pass protection, and he’s a threat as a pass catcher as his 567 yards receiving last year can attest to. While his agility is impressive, Zeke’s physique allows him to punish defenders, yet his body holds up as he’s never missed any games due to injury.
Of course, Barkley is no slouch himself. He checks off quite a bit of boxes as well. Like Elliott, he plays with a low pad level. His vision is right there with Zeke’s, and you could make a case that Saquon is the best jump-cutter in the league. Both have great speed, but Barkley’s a flat-out burner. He’s a threat to take it to the house on any given play. The Giants offensive line didn’t give him a lot to work with, but give Barkley credit - he made the most out of every touch.
So which running back would you rather have?
Before the 2016 draft, I had my flag firmly planted into the “running backs don’t matter all that much” camp. Upon watching tape of Elliott, my opinion changed and he was the number one player on my board (Jalen Ramsey was no. 2). Zeke was the type of dynamic playmaker that could really open things up for the Cowboys offense. And after three years of action, I’ve never looked back on that decision.
And although it was the minority opinion, Barkley was atop my board for last year’s draft as well. Just like Zeke, Barkley was just a special cat who was a game-changer. Defenses would have no choice to game plan around them.
Without taking into consideration contract, price, or even mileage - I’d still lean slightly towards Barkley if I was forced to choose. You won’t find a bigger Zeke supporter than yours truly, but it’s hard to look past just how incredibly amazing Barkley is. It’s a tough call, but that extra burst that Barkley has when he hits the hole is what puts him over the top.
First up on my Big Board (1-200) ((if I got it in me)) Thread is on:— Cody from Hydeandzeke (@hydeandzeke) June 18, 2019
My number 1 ranked Dynasty, Redraft, and Best Ball player pic.twitter.com/Eo26I2vvX6
Who would you rather have as your running back?
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