Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has been a dominant force during his four-year NFL career, but at least one NFL executive believes another running back would thrive even more in Dallas' system than Zeke.
In an article ranking the NFL's top 10 running backs written by ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, an anonymous NFC executive said the following about Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook: "Damn, Cook can play. Contact don't bother him. You've got to get him down. He'd be better than Zeke in Dallas."
The NFC executive voted Cook as the No. 1 running back in the NFL. Overall, Cook was voted as the sixth-ranked running back in the NFL by the 50-plus league executives, coaches, scouts and players who participated, while Elliott was ranked third.
Elliott, 24, has been a superstar since the day he arrived in the NFL as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft out of Ohio State. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time First Team All-Pro who has twice led the Cowboys to the playoffs during his four-year career.
Zeke led the NFL in carries and rushing yardage in both 2016 and 2018. He finished with just 983 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in 2017, but the numbers are remarkable when taking into account the fact that he missed six games because of a suspension.
Elliott was great again in 2019, as he rushed for 1,357 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also making 54 catches for 420 yards and two scores. Zeke's average season is 1,351 yards and 10 scores on the ground, plus 47 receptions for 405 yards and two additional touchdowns.
There is no question that Elliott has benefited from playing behind a dominant offensive line that has included the likes of Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick and La'el Collins. The upcoming season could represent Zeke's biggest challenge yet as the All-Pro center, Frederick, retired this offseason.
Cook was a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft out of Florida State, but it took him a couple of years to truly break out because of injuries.
A knee injury limited Cook to just four games as a rookie, and he missed five games in 2018 with a hamstring ailment. Cook entered 2019 with just 969 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 15 career games, but he smashed those totals last season.
Cook was still hampered by injuries and missed two games, but he was a dominant force when he played, as he finished with 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, as well as 53 catches for 519 yards.
Cook's career average of 4.6 yards per carry is equal to Elliott's, but he may have far more gas left in the tank at 24 years of age than Zeke if he can stay healthy. Cook has only 457 career NFL carries in three seasons compared to Elliott's 1,169 in four campaigns.
Elliott was rewarded last year for his dominant play, as he signed a six-year, $90 million extension with the Cowboys. Cook is set to enter the final year of his rookie contract in 2020, but there may be some trepidation on Minnesota's part to sign him to a long-term deal given his injury history.
It takes a special running back to land a big contract in the NFL presently because of their short shelf life compared to other positions, but if Cook can stay relatively healthy and put up big numbers again in 2020, either the Vikings or another team are likely to reward him handsomely.