Very few players are able to enter the National Football League and play at a Pro Bowl level right away. Rookies in the NFL face massive amounts of pressure to live up to the lofty expectations that come with being high draft picks or having record-breaking college careers. Some guys can handle it, others cannot. Even the players that are able to come in and contribute at a high level in their first professional season almost always experience a great deal of growing pains on their road to NFL stardom.
One of the few positions where players can make an almost seamless transition from the college level to the professional level is running back. The simple truth of the matter is that running backs can rely more heavily on their natural running ability and vision than their rookie teammates at other positions. Other position groups have a much more difficult time adjusting to the speed of the game, pro-style schemes, and more complex terminology of NFL offenses and defenses.
Some of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history have come at the hands of some of the greatest running backs in NFL history. In fact, it is not that uncommon to see ball carriers eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in their first professional season. And after only nine games in his first professional season, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has already accomplished that feat.
Here is a quick rundown on Elliott’s stats through entering the 2016 postseason:
- 322 carries
- 1,631 rushing yards
- 5.1 yards per carry
- 108.7 rushing yards per game
- 15 rushing touchdowns
- 32 receptions
- 363 receiving yards
- 1 touchdown reception
The Cowboys can attribute a great deal of their success this season to the emergence of Elliott. The former Ohio State standout is one of the top three running backs in the league (he’s joined by Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers and David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals), he has already earned All-Pro honors, and he is very much in contention for the 2016 NFL MVP and Offensive Rookie of the Year awards. With that being the case, is it safe to say that Elliott is the best rookie running back in NFL history?
Here’s how his season compares to the previous seven best rookie running back seasons of all-time.