Dallas Cowboys running back, Ezekiel Elliott, had his 6 game suspension officially reinstated yesterday. The NFL has stated that Elliott will begin serving his suspension immediately. Ezekiel Elliott and his legal team still have some options to fight this, and all indications are that they will do so. Who knows how long this could go or what the final result will be?
Regardless of what happens in the end, right now Ezekiel Elliott is suspended. In this situation, let’s say Elliott doesn’t play another game this season. The Cowboys have two experienced running backs on their roster in Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. Both of these players have seen success in the NFL, but they’re not Ezekiel Elliott. If Zeke doesn’t play again this year, who would you rather have?
Even if you’re not a Cowboys fan, try putting yourself in this situation. If you owned a team and you had to choose between Morris and McFadden as your starter, who would you choose? Let’s take a look at what each running back brings to the table.
This is McFadden’s 10th year in the NFL. He was drafted 4th overall by the Oakland Raiders back in 2008. When you’re picked 4th overall, you’ve got some pretty heavy expectations. While McFadden hasn’t had a terrible career, he hasn’t lived up to 4th overall pick expectations. Injuries have been a major reason why McFadden hasn’t been what most thought he would be.
In his previous 9 seasons, McFadden has only two 1,000 yard rushing seasons. When you look at the two 1,000 seasons, it doesn’t seem that impressive, especially for a player who is in his 10th year. A positive to those two seasons, is that one of those came with the Dallas Cowboys.
McFadden knows how to run behind the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. In 2015, McFadden ran for 1,089 yards with a 4.6 yard average when he was the featured running back. McFadden didn’t see a whole lot of work last year, as Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris both joined the team. So far this season, McFadden has yet to get a snap, but that looks like it will soon change.
Along with success running behind the Cowboys offensive line, McFadden brings the element of pass catching. He’s had 2,114 receiving yards in his career, which is almost half the amount of rushing yards he has. McFadden has six seasons of at least 200+ receiving yards. 507 and 328 yards are his two best receiving seasons, both of which came in his two 1,000 yard rushing seasons. He has a career average of 8.3 yards per catch. McFadden can be a receiving threat for this Cowboys team.
Alfred Morris is in his 6th NFL season. He entered the NFL in 2012 after being drafted by the Washington Redskins in the sixth round. Unlike McFadden, the expectations for Morris haven’t been as high, but Morris has made the most of his opportunities.
During his four years with the Redskins, Morris played in all 16 games each year. Availability hasn’t been an issue with Morris. His first three years in the NFL were 1,000 yard rushing seasons. He hasn’t had a whole lot of success with the Cowboys, but his opportunities have been limited. He had 69 carries last season, and this season he’s had just 8 in the 4 games he’s played. While Morris has had more overall success in the NFL than McFadden, he has yet to prove he can have success with the Cowboys. He will likely now have the chance to prove he can be successful with this team.
An area where Morris is lacking, is in the receiving department. Morris has a total of 376 receiving yards in his NFL career. He’s had just one year with over 100 receiving yards. In his time with the Cowboys, he has a total of 3 receptions for 11 yards. His career receiving average is good (7.5), but he doesn’t pose a huge threat in the receiving game.
Pros and Cons
Now that we’ve reviewed the history of both players, it’s time to weigh their pros and cons.
McFadden Pros: Success with the Cowboys, bigger receiving threat
McFadden Cons: Not a long history of success, injury history
Morris Pros: More overall success as a runner, availability
Morris Cons: Lack of success with the Cowboys, not a receiving threat
Who Would You Choose as the Starter?
Both running backs can help this team, but they can do it in different ways. So what’s the answer to the question? If the decision was up to me, I would choose Alfred Morris as the starting running back. His availability and longer success give me more confidence in him getting the bulk of the carries.
While Morris would get most of the carries, McFadden will still make an impact. Morris can run, but he’s not a receiver. McFadden will play on first and second down every once in a while, but his main role would be to come in on third down and be a receiving option for Dak Prescott.
I don’t think either of these running backs can fully make up for the loss of Ezekiel Elliott, but together they can get close. Sitting at 2-3, this Cowboys team was already in a bad spot. This 6 game suspension only makes things harder, but if they go about it the right way, the Cowboys offense will be fine.