Ezekiel Elliott has been a dominating force since coming into the league as the fourth overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. He led the league in rush attempts and yards right out of the gate as a rookie and has led the league in rushing yards per game in three of his first four seasons. What does he have in store for 2020 with a new head coach?
DraftKings Sportsbook has set the following total for Elliott's rushing yards in 2020:
At first glance, this total seems a bit low. Elliott rushed for 1,357 yards last season, and that was his lowest total over a full season in his career. He rushed for a league-leading 1,434 yards in 2018, 983 yards in 10 games in 2017 (a 1,573-yard pace over 16 games), and 1,631 yards in 2016. Let's take a closer look at whether or not Elliott can cross the 1275.5-yard plateau this season.
Pros for betting OVER; Cons for betting UNDER
Aside from the obvious argument of "he's rushed for more yards in three of his four NFL seasons," Elliott seems like a lock for the over because the offense still revolves around him.
Although the Cowboys were forced to throw more last season, they still ran the ball on 42% of their offensive plays. That was the 12th-most in the NFL. Elliott averaged nearly 85 rushing yards per game and finished 81.5 yards above this year's posted total. And that all happened in a season where the Cowboys ran the ball less than any other time in Elliott's career. Dallas led the NFL by rushing on 48.7% of their offensive plays in 2016. They were third in the NFL in 2017, rushing on 47.8% of plays, and 10th in 2018 at 43.2%. What happens if that number spikes up again?
Many will point to new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy as a concern, saying he won't commit to the run as Jason Garrett did. However, that may not be fair. McCarthy had five 1,000-plus yard rushers in his 13 seasons in Green Bay and never had a back as talented as Elliott. Eddie Lacy, Ryan Grant, and Ahman Green all were given as many as 246-312 rushing attempts in a season, so there's no reason to believe Elliott will dip below the 334 touches per 16 games Elliott has averaged in his career.
Pros for betting UNDER; Cons for betting OVER
Any running back in the NFL has a higher level of an injury risk than the average offensive player, especially one that touches the ball 350-plus times per season. Given that Elliott needs to average 79.72 rushing yards per game over 16 games, there isn't much margin for error. Given his career average of 4.6 yards per attempt and 20.9 attempts per game, missing three or more games equals an automatic under. Elliott has missed eight games in his four-year career.
The other concern is that, even as good as Elliott is, there are many downward trends. The amount of rushing plays relative to the entire Cowboys offense has dropped every year since Elliott's rookie season. His rushing yards per game have dropped every year since his rookie season. His attempts per game have declined every year since 2017. Only four running backs had more than 1275.5 rushing yards last season (Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey, and Elliott), so there's little margin for error.
Elliott is a supreme talent that gets a ton of volume and always makes the most of it. While he missed six games in 2017 due to a suspension, he's missed just one or zero games in his other three seasons. Running behind a quality offensive line and now even more weapons on offense with the addition of rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, I like Elliott to go over the posted total, despite the loss of Travis Frederick.
The Play: OVER 1,275.5 rushing yards (-110)
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