“The Quest for Canton” Mini-Series: Article 4 of 20
By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)
As the NFL offseason slowly moves along, there is increasingly less to talk about as we wait for the season to roll around. With more time on our hands, writers and journalists are looking for anything to write about. That was where the idea for this series arose from.
In the NFL today, there are many young talents who seem to already be heading towards acquiring a bust in Canton. Reaching the NFL Hall-of-Fame is one of the most prestigious honors any player can hope to achieve in their careers and is what motivate many players to improve and play at the highest level. In this series, we will discuss how some of these players have already left their marks and what they can do to ensure their eventual enshrinement.
Over the next ten weeks, we will make our way through twenty total players in the NFL today under the age of 28 who are well on their ways to the Hall. Twice a week, a new name will be discussed and debated in order to see where they stand and what they can do in their “Quest for Canton”.
In 2016, the Cowboy’s started a three-year run of a team drafting a running back with a top five pick in the NFL draft, selecting Ohio State star Ezekiel Elliot with the 4th overall selection of the class. The Jacksonville Jaguars followed suit the next season, taking LSU bruiser Leonard Fournette with the same selection, and In 2018, the Giants finished the trifecta, selecting Penn State superstar Saquon Barkley as the second overall pick. Since then, each back has gone on to have success in their respective careers, with Fournette playing a key role in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2020-21 title run and Barkley dominating when healthy, even leading the league in scrimmage yards as a rookie.
What “Zeke” has done through five seasons, however, dwarfs anything the other two have accomplished, as well as the majority of every other first five years a running back has had in league history. In that time, the young Cowboy’s rusher has already led the league in rushing yards twice and led as well in rushing yards per game in each of his first three seasons.
Through a players first 50 career games, Elliott finishes third in yards from scrimmage since the merger, with his 6,300 trailing just Edgerrin James (6,506) and LaDanian Tomlinson (6,425). He also made an immediate impact in Dallas, totaling 1,631 rushing yards and 15 rushing scores as a rookie and helping propel the Cowboys to the second-best record in the league (13-3) and pairing with fellow rookie, quarterback Dak Prescott, to dominate the league.
Despite a down year in 2020, in which the team lost Prescott early to injury and never recovered, Elliott’s early years remain some of the greatest in history. He ranks in the top 15 in NFL history in both rushing yards and touchdowns through a players first five seasons, with all 14 ahead of him either currently or soon-to-be enshrined in the Hall. Zeke should return back to prior form with a healthy Prescott keeping defenses honest once more in 2021 and continue his run as one of the best backs of this generation.
As it stands, Zeke is already well on his way to Canton, and should join the ranks of the greats soon enough should he continue his amazing career start!
Tune in early next week as we hit the quarter-way mark of the series and break down another legendary running back of this generation: Carolina Panthers superstar Christian McCaffrey.