IRVING, Texas -- Ezekiel Elliott is more than three months away from his first carry in the NFL and the offensive rookie of the year award is already his to lose.
Joyner listed Elliott as the front-runner for the award today, ahead of Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo and receivers Will Fuller (Houston Texans), Corey Coleman (Cleveland Browns) and Josh Doctson (Washington Redskins).
Elliott is walking into a ready-made situation for success. He has one of the best quarterbacks in Tony Romo. He has a passing game, led by Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, that defenses have to contend with. He has an offensive line that is the envy of most in the NFL.
So what’s not to like?
Eric Dickerson set the NFL record for most rushing yards by a rookie with 1,808 in 1984. George Rogers had 1,674 in 1981 for the New Orleans Saints. The third-best season by a rookie belongs to Elliott’s teammate, Alfred Morris, who had 1,613 yards in 2012 for Washington.
The hype around Elliott is so high that if he is not threatening some of the best rookie seasons ever, then his first season might be viewed as some kind of disappointment.
Having high expectations isn’t a bad thing, but setting unreal expectations is another.
Elliott looks to have all the tools necessary to be a complete back in the NFL. He can run. He has vision. His speed is good enough. He is tough between the tackles. He is nimble outside the tackles. He can catch. He can block.
This excitement is a product of being picked so high in the draft, but the buzz around Elliott is far different than it was for Morris Claiborne, whom the Cowboys took with the sixth overall pick in 2012.
Claiborne came to a defense that was going to an aggressive look. The Cowboys signed Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50 million deal that offseason. They still had DeMarcus Ware at the height of his game. Jeremiah Ratliff was coming off a Pro Bowl. Sean Lee was a playmaker.
People need to remember rookies need time. Some don’t need much. You could tell immediately Bryant would be a star. Maybe Elliott will be like Bryant and you’ll know right away.
But it would be wise to let the rookie breathe a little in his first year.