We are now just hours away from the first preseason game of the 2016 season for the Dallas Cowboys as they take on the newly relocated Los Angeles Rams on Saturday.
Since the moment the draft ended three months ago, Cowboys fans have been on the edge of their seat waiting to see their team’s rookies take the field. With that being said, I want to give each fan my opinion on what they can expect from each of these rookies not only in 2016, but also for the long haul just before they step on the field on Saturday.
1st Round Pick (4th Overall): Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Ah, the crown jewel of this draft class. The all-american running back from Ohio State with 1800 yards and at least 18 touchdowns in each of his past two years. Of course, I am talking about Ezekiel Elliott. It was reported on the days leading up to draft day that the Cowboys were split between picking Elliott and Florida State defensive dynamo Jalen Ramsey. Many fans would have been happy if Jalen Ramsey was chosen because of his ability to step in and give a much needed boost to the secondary, but they knew deep down in their blue and silver hearts that Ezekiel Elliott was the pick that would have them ecstatic. There was a lot of talk after the Cowboys signed Alfred Morris to a short-term deal in free agency that they would pass on a running back early in the draft, but as we know now, the “Hero in a Half Shirt” was the top overall player on their draft board despite the added depth at the position because of his ability to be an impact player on all three downs. Fast forward to today, Elliott is dealing with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of a few practices, and could miss the first preseason game against the Rams. However, I do not think it is severe enough for fans to start biting their nails. The expectations for him in 2016 are as high as any rookie I can remember in recent memory, and if he can stay healthy, he should be able to fulfill those expectations. With the best offensive line in football paving the way for him, a player of his talent will be a nightmare for defenses across the league for several years. Everyone likes to bring up the 2014 season and how the revival of the run game can mask the deficient defense again, but is giving Elliott 392 carries going to help his development in the long run? In short, no, but I do believe that if they can give Elliott 20 or so touches a game with a sprinkle of Alfred Morris, this run game can be as good if not better than 2014. In fact, I believe the 15 yard runs that DeMarco had after exploding through the hole could turn into 30 yard runs for Elliott because of speed and elusiveness. This was clearly a “win now” selection by the Cowboys, and I expect Ezekiel Elliott to be a star as he plays out his rookie contract, but don’t be surprised if he is able to change the narrative of running backs after the first contract.
2016 Prediction: Rookie of the Year
Long-Term Prediction: Cornerstone player with multiple pro bowls under his belt.