Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott Falls out of ESPN's Top 10 RB Rankings Voted by NFL Insiders

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJuly 12, 2022

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 16: Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs with the football during the NFC Wild Card game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys on January 16, 2022 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott did not crack the top 10 in ESPN's NFL running back rankings released Tuesday.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler released the list as voted on by 50 anonymous NFL executives, coaches, scouts and players, and Elliott could only muster a place in the honorable mention section.

The top 10 running backs on the list were as follows:

1. Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans)

2. Jonathan Taylor (Indianapolis Colts)

3. Nick Chubb (Cleveland Browns)

4. Dalvin Cook (Minnesota Vikings)

5. Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints)

6. Joe Mixon (Cincinnati Bengals)

7. Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers)

8. Najee Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers)

9. Aaron Jones (Green Bay Packers)

10. Javonte Williams (Denver Broncos)

An NFC executive provided a possible explanation for Elliott's absence on the list after placing in the top 10 last year, saying: "He's still a good player, but that burst he once had just doesn't seem to be there."

The 26-year-old Elliott is set to enter his seventh NFL season in 2022, and he will look to secure his fifth 1,000-yard rushing campaign and fourth season with double-digit rushing touchdowns in the process.

Elliott reached both of those milestones last season, rushing for 1,002 yards and 10 touchdowns on 237 carries to go along with 47 receptions for 287 yards and two scores through the air.

While Zeke's overall numbers were solid, he is clearly lacking the explosiveness he showed earlier in his career.

Since leading the NFL in rushing yardage (1,631) and rushing yards per game (108.7) as a rookie in 2016, his production has dipped.

Elliott led the league in rushing yards per game in each of his first three seasons, but that number has gone down each year, and he bottomed out last season at just 58.9 yards per game.

The three-time Pro Bowler and one-time first-team All-Pro also averaged just 4.2 yards per carry last season, which was one of the lowest marks of his career as well.

Elliott did improve his ball security with just one fumble compared to six the previous season, but a lack of big, dynamic plays has clearly changed the perception of him around the league.

It likely doesn't help Elliott's cause that teammate Tony Pollard looked like a more explosive and better overall running back for stretches last season.

The 2019 fourth-round draft pick out of Memphis set career highs last season with 719 rushing yards and 337 receiving yards, plus he averaged a career-best 5.5 yards per carry.

Pollard tied for fifth in the NFL in yards per carry last season, and only one of the four players ahead of him was a running back (Rashaad Penny of the Seattle Seahawks).

Given how effective he was last season in limited opportunities compared to the volume Elliott received, it stands to reason that Pollard will be utilized even more in 2022.

That could be good for Elliott in keeping him fresh and helping him avoid injuries, but with Pollard cutting into his playing time and quarterback Dak Prescott slinging the ball at a high rate, Zeke isn't the focal point of the Dallas offense anymore.