ESPN released its annual preseason rankings of the top 10 running backs heading into 2022. Maybe not surprising to some, but Ezekiel Elliott failed to crack the list – coming in as an honorable mention along with Austin Ekeler and Saquon Barkley.
“Elliott’s fall outside the top 10 is still a bit surprising considering he just produced his third career 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said. “But his rushing yards per game have dipped in each of his six NFL seasons, from 108.7 in 2016 to 58.9 last year. ‘He’s still a good player, but that burst he once had just doesn’t seem to be there,’” an NFC exec said.
Three years ago, Elliott was regarded as one of the league’s best backs – if not the best. We saw him burst onto the scene in 2016 rushing for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns.
He followed that year with a near 1,000-yard season in which he only played 10 games due to a six-game suspension from the league. He nearly rushed for 1,500 yards in 2018 and 1,400 yards in 2019.
2020 he posted the lowest average per carry at four yards before increasing it to 4.2 this past season. So the question remains: Is Elliott still a top 10 running back currently?
According to ESPN, Derrick Henry comes in at number one for the second consecutive year. He was on pace for 1,900 yards before a foot injury cost him nine regular-season games.
Jonathan Taylor was listed at number two after exploding for 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns on 332 carries.
Nick Chubb slotted number three after averaging 5.6 yards per carry – something Elliott hasn’t done in his six years with the team. Dalvin Cook ranked number four after recording north of 1,100 rushing yards for the third straight season.
Alvin Kamara was fifth as he is still one of the premier three-down backs in the league.
Joe Mixon (6th), Christian McCaffrey (7th), Najee Harris (8th), Aaron Jones (9th) and Javonte Williams (10th).
Seeing as how the NFL increased to 17 games this season, it was troubling it took Zeke 17 games to barely crack 1,000 yards. His 10 touchdowns, however, marked just the third time he cracked double digits in rushing touchdowns.
Reports have circulated throughout the offseason that Elliott is in fantastic shape, but entering his seventh season it’s wishful thinking to believe Elliott can regain what made him one of the league’s highest-paid backs.
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