time great says rookie could be Cowboys’ next great running back

Jon Machota: He definitely looks the part. He looks good in individual drills. But there’s really not much you can get from the team period until the pads come on. Defenders aren’t allowed to have much contact so it’s difficult to really know how effective some of these runs would be on Sunday. He seems to be on the same page with Romo during the pre snap part of team drills. Tony isn’t having to tell Zeke where to go or anything like that. But it’s going to be tough to get a real assessment of Zeke before the pads come on and he’s facing Sean Lee coming downhill at him.

Question: What do you think is going to be Ezekiel Elliott’s biggest adjustment as a rookie?

Kate Hairopoulos: Living up to the expectations to be great, immediately. He’s not going to be given much, if any, adjustment period to find his way, that’s even more clear now with Darren McFadden’s injury/surgery. And we’re talking about both pass protection for Tony Romo and in production on the ground. Sure, Zeke is used to being scrutinized he played for powerhouse Ohio State and won a national championship. But this is a whole other world for a guy who only turns 21 in July. The good news for the Cowboys, and surely part of the reason they drafted him, is that he appears capable of handling it. We’ll all be watching every move, every success and every mistake, on and off the field.

IndyCar driver Graham Rahal on Elliott: He’s a hell of a player. He’s a great blocker in the backfield, so hopefully he an keep (quarterback Tony) Romo healthy. A heck of a competitor. In my time, I’ve watched a lot of good players at Ohio State. I don’t know if I’ve seen a better competitor and all around running back. He’s is extremely, extremely good.

Emmitt Smith on Elliott being better than him: Well, he is better in the context of his speed, he’s faster. In the context of his ability to block, he can block. I just think that he’s a smart football player. At the end of the day, I’d like to think that he is better than me because obviously some of those things that we just talked about actually give him the ability to make a house call when he needs to.

Former NFL running back LaDanian Tomlinson on Elliott: Well they’re getting a guy that can play all three downs. A guy that understands how to run between the tackles very well and he’s explosive enough to get around the corner. Great balance, got great feet. Really good vision and I think he’s going to be a workhorse for years to come. I mean, he could be the next great one in Dallas at the running back position. Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith are guys that I think about right away when you think about Cowboys running backs. Hopefully, he becomes the next one.

Question: How far can Ezekiel Elliot go in his rookie season?

Rick Gosselin: Here are the numbers you need to know. There have been 58 rookies rush for 1,000 yards in NFL history; 44 rushed for 1,100 yards, 24 for 1,200, 18 for 1,300, 13 for 1,400, 6 for 1,500, 4 for 1,600 and one (Eric Dickerson) for 1,800. Given the move away from the rushing game in today’s NFL and the presence of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant in the same huddle I’d say 1,200 yards would be a good target for Elliott. One of the 1,600 yard rookie rushers, by the way, was Alfred Morris, who now sits behind Elliott on the depth chart. He already seemed to have blown past Darren McFadden on the Cowboys’ depth chart, and that was even before Dallas knew McFadden broke his right elbow in a fall at home in May. Dallas doesn’t have to ease Elliott in like the Rams did last year with the rehabbing Gurley.

Bob Sturm on Elliott: He is 20 years old and possesses size and athleticism that is phenomenal. But, what really impresses you about Elliott is that he plays the game in a way that demonstrates how much he loves every component of the sport. He does everything and he does it with a commitment that suggests he is a team leader.

Question: I know Elliott’ supposed to be a workhorse, but how much of a load do you think he can carry? Should we be worried about Dallas overworking him and him hitting "The Wall"?

Jon Machota: I don’t see that being a problem over the next few years. He’s going to be 21 during his rookie season. That’s a great age for a pro running back. The late 20s are when you start worrying about RBs. Younger guys usually recover quicker from the beating they take on Sundays. The Cowboys didn’t use the fourth overall pick on Elliott to slowly ease him in, Zeke’s getting 15 plus carries from Day 1. And as long as he takes care of himself, he should be one of the league’s top rushers for the duration of his rookie contract.

NFL Network’s Jamie Dukes on why Elliott faces more pressure as a rookie than Jared Goff: I think Elliott’s the one under pressure because there always is expectations for the Dallas Cowboys. But on top of that, Cowboy fans wanted this guy. They have always been looking for the next Emmitt Smith. They know they got their quarterback. They know they have a wide receiver in Dez Bryant who is wearing No. 88 like our 88. They need that one guy. They believe this is the guy.

Deion Sanders on Ezekiel Elliott: I just want that kid to stay focused. Just stay focused. Don’t get caught up in the lights, camera, action of the Dallas Cowboys, because it could be overwhelming. Because any news is big news when you’re a Dallas Cowboy. He has to really understand that he’s a professional football player, he’s not a college kid. Elliott gets to run behind the same dominant offensive line that turned DeMarco Murray into a league leading rusher. His presence also takes some pressure off quarterback Tony Romo (if he can stay healthy) and opens up more possibilities for wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten downfield.

Question: What’s stopping Ezekiel Elliott from having the best single season rushing mark as a rookie? He seems like a slam dunk for Rookie of the Year.

Babe Laufenberg: I don’t know if I can say he is a "slam dunk" for Rookie of the Year, but he is certainly a favorite. If he is as good as advertised, and behind this offensive line, I think 1,200 1,300 yards is a realistic figure. And could go as high as 1,500 yards. But with the depth the Cowboys have at RB, his carries will not be near the 392 that DeMarco Murray saw in 2014. FYI rookie rushing record was 1,808 set by Eric Dickerson in 1983.

ESPN’s KC Joyner on Elliott’s rookie of the year chances: Elliott can post quality numbers, but his true impact will be measured on how much higher he can increase these already impressive figures. If he doesn’t do that by a significant amount, it could open the door for another rookie to overtake him.