The best running back in the 2016 NFL draft class is probably Ezekiel Elliott. How soon does it mean he’ll get picked? Hard to say because of his position, but the Dallas Cowboys are very interested in him, and so are the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins.
The 20-year old out of Alton, Illinois completed three fantastic seasons with the Ohio State Buckeyes, beginning his career there as a true freshman backing up Carlos Hyde. He took over the starting running back role in 2014 and exploded, finishing with 1878 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns and 2098 yards from scrimmage. The CFP National Championship Offensive MVP as Ohio State won the national championship, he capped off the 2014 season with games of 107 yards, 121 and then the big finale: 220 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, 230 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama in the CFP semifinal and in the championship game ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns.
He finished with very similar numbers in the 2015 season, rushing for 1821 yards and 23 touchdowns, once again surpassing the 2000-yards mark when it comes to scrimmage. He ran for 100 yards or more in every game last season except for one – the loss to Michigan State which cost Ohio State the right to play for the Big Ten title and be in the college football playoff. Elliott and others blamed the coaching staff for not letting him run in that game (33 yards, 12 carries, one touchdown) and were probably right. He followed it up with 214 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan and ran for 149 yards and four touchdowns against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
So where does he end up? The Cowboys seem like the most serious to get him, although with the fourth overall pick, they could be reaching a bit. Elliott does seem like the complete package not to mention young, with the only questionable thing about him being the struggles at times to break tackles. But using the fourth overall pick in the running back? Could be a bit risky with so many defensive needs for the Cowboys to take care of. They saw him work out in Columbus with other Ohio State players, and are bringing him in for a visit.
For both the Dolphins and the Eagles, it’s more of an answer a need thing in a bit of a lower pick. The Dolphins love running backs like Elliott (who doesn’t) and need a lot of yards to replace. The Eagles are once again changing their running back situation after the DeMarco Murray debacle, and have been cited saying that finding value in a running back with a late-late pick doesn’t really make sense, hinting that they might take one in the first round.