The Dallas Cowboys went against conventional wisdom last April when they took Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick in the draft. In recent years, most teams had taken running backs much later in the draft, opting to address other positions instead of one they believed could be easily filled.
Fast-forward almost a year, and the Cowboys look like geniuses for taking Elliott, who went on to lead the NFL in rushing and be named Offensive Rookie of the Year. Will other NFL teams change their draft strategy as a result of Elliott’s immediate success?
Leonard Fournette, who many predict will be the first running back taken this year, sure hopes so. The former LSU star was asked Thursday at the Combine what impact Elliott’s stellar season will have on this year’s crop of rookie running backs.
“It helped us completely,” said Fournette, who averaged 120.4 yards per game last season. “It showed that he’s not just a running back. He can help in the passing game. He can run, he can block. And I think he led a great way for these running backs coming out right now.”
Another running back prospect who could crack the top 10 is former Florida State standout Dalvin Cook, who also was asked about Elliott’s impact.
“Zeke did pave the way for us,” said Cook, who ran for 19 touchdowns in 2016. “Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, all those guys. They paved the way for us. Zeke does a great job of catching the ball out of the backfield, protecting Dak [Prescott] at quarterback and running very well behind a good offensive line.”