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News: DMN: Nine months ago there were critics; now Ezekiel Elliott is 'exactly and more' than

Discussion in 'Newsfeed Zone' started by NewsBot, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. NewsBot

    NewsBot New Member

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    FRISCO -- It's easy to look at what Ezekiel Elliott has done and say he's the ideal choice for the Cowboys. How could anyone think otherwise?
    Nine months ago plenty of critics did.

    Part of the reason the Cowboys are the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs is because they went against conventional wisdom to draft Elliott as high as they did. Their conviction that he was a transformative player overrode concerns about the defense.

    Elliott cemented the team's identity in a way defensive end Joey Bosa, defensive back Jalen Ramsey or another defensive player couldn't in his rookie season.

    The Ohio State star was hands down the best running back in the draft. Sunday's opponent in the divisional round, Green Bay, got an early glimpse of what this rookie can do when he ran for 157 yards against them in October.

    Everyone knew Elliott would be productive behind the Cowboys offensive line and the prime challenger for Rookie of the Year. The argument against him was a positional one.

    A team with the fourth pick in the first round doesn't squander that selection on a running back in today's NFL, especially when that team has crying needs on the defensive side of the ball like Dallas.

    Elliott was the flashy pick, but was he the best pick? Wouldn't the addition of a blue chip defensive lineman or cornerback do more for the Cowboys over time? A quarterback was in the mix as well since the franchise hoped not to have a pick this high again for a long time.

    This was the internal debate that preceded Elliott's selection.

    "We really did a lot of homework on what he was,'' owner Jerry Jones said. "We knew we were taking a position that probably was higher than that position in the current scene deserved.

    "But there's no question we saw that we could not get where we wanted to get by drafting on defense.''

    Quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were the first two players off the board. Bosa went the pick ahead of Dallas to San Diego and Ramsey the pick after to Jacksonville.

    The Cowboys had interest in Bosa and Ramsey. Both had strong first seasons. Bosa had 10.5 sacks and forced a fumble despite playing in just 12 games.

    Ramsey started 16 games and came away with two interceptions, returning one of them for a touchdown. He knocked down 14 passes, forced a fumble and had 65 tackles.

    How does that compare to Elliott, who led the league in rushing with 1,631 yards and scored 16 touchdowns? Elliott touched the ball 350 times for the Cowboys.

    A defensive player, no matter how talented, can't insert himself into the game to that extent.

    "We didn't see what we really wanted, although Bosa has turned out to be quite a force, it looks like,'' Jones said. "But we didn't see what we really wanted on defense.

    "Zeke gave us our best chance to do just what he's done and that is ball control and to really make a difference. It complemented the offensive line.''

    The dominance of the offensive line was another argument against selecting Elliott. DeMarco Murray was a third-round pick. How did he do behind the Cowboys line in 2014?

    Arizona used a third-round pick on David Johnson in '15. He's been wildly productive. Chicago rookie Jordan Howard, the league's second leading rusher this season, was taken in the fifth round with pick No. 150.

    Could the Cowboys have used that first round pick on defense and found a productive back in the later rounds? Sure.

    Can this offense line pave the way for a good back to have an exceptional season? No question. By that same logic, what can an exceptional back do behind this offensive line?

    "Is he a once in 10 years kind of back?'' Jones asked. "Well, the guy that was taken the year before from Georgia (Todd Gurley) had the speed aspect of it but didn't have the away from the ball. Not to take anything away from him but didn't have the away from the ball. Yes, this guy could be once in 10 years.

    "That type of dialogue went on and we got satisfied that he was worth that pick.''

    That's why Elliott always made sense for the Cowboys in a league where fewer and fewer franchises are willing to invest a premium pick in the running back position.

    "It's borne out,'' Jones said. "If I've ever seen anything that was scripted in the draft room, scripted in the evaluation process and then has come to bear any more straight down the line than Zeke, I don't know it.

    "He's exactly and more than we had hoped for.''

    Catch David Moore and co-host Robert Wilonsky on The Ticket (KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM) on Intentional Grounding from 7-9 p.m. every Wednesday during the Cowboys playoff run.

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