Player: Ezekiel Elliott
Team: Dallas Cowboys
Shawn Childs rank: RB3
The standoff with the Ezekiel Elliott signing will heat up over the final two weeks of August. Elliott is under contract for the next two years, but he’s only owed $3.8 million in guaranteed money for 2019. His base salary is just over $9 million in 2020, but one injury this year could lead to a cap causality if released by next June. Dallas needs him to win. Yes, they added an intriguing back in the 2019 draft (Tony Pollard), but Dallas is positioned to win this year. They need Elliott on the field, and I expect his contract to be finalized before the start of the season.
In two of his three years in the NFL, Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards (1,631 and 1,434) while playing 15 games in both seasons. At the same time, he had the most rushing attempts (322 and 304) while also leading the NFL in rushing yards per game in 2016 (108.7), 2017 (98.3), and 2018 (95.6). His stats in 2017 were cut short by a six-game suspension. Last year the Cowboys figured out how to get Zeke involved in the passing game. He set career highs in catches (77), receiving yard (567), receiving TDs (3) and targets (95).
Over his 17 games played (including the playoffs), Elliott had eight games with over 100 yards rushing and four other contests with over 100 combined yards. His only area where he failed to reach expectations was TDs (9). This year his offensive line should be back to full strength after playing without their Pro Bowl center for the entire 2018 season. I expect growth in the Cowboys’ offense where one TD per game is reasonable even with Dak Prescott rushing for some TDs himself.
Elliott will be drafted as a top-five player despite the holdout concerns in 2019. His next step should be 2,300 combined yards with 80-plus catches and about 15 TDs. Elliott is a high-floor player who offers consistency and explosiveness. The only major concern is whether or not he will miss time in 2019 due to contract negotiations.
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