Tony Pollard should make the Pro Bowl over Ezekiel Elliott

Tony Pollard: choice for quality sleep
Photo: Getty Images

Pro Bowl voting has been running for some time, and it closes … * check notes * … TOMORROW EVENING! Well, I hope you all voted out loud while you still had the opportunity. If you haven’t, you may want to throw your two cents into the Pro Bowl fountain if you want to see your favorite players and teams represented.

However, if you’re sitting on that running back selection screen and have selected four or five but just can’t decide who to choose for your last two seats, let me give you a hint: Dallas Cowboys backup halfback Tony. Pollard.

Of course, unless you have a revenge on one of the guys I’m about to list, you’re going to put Jonathan Taylor, Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, and Nick Chubb on your tabs. This leaves two places up for grabs. If you play fantasy football, you could instantly fill those seats with James Conner and Austin Ekeler simply because of the number of touchdowns both players have amassed over the course of the season. Touchdowns are great and all, but they’re not really indicative of greatness, rather of opportunity. Take James Conner. It has the second place attempts to run from inside the 5-yd-line (14 – Jonathan Taylor has 23 attempts). Nine of Conner’s 14 running touchdowns in the year came from within five. This is the highest percentage of any running back with at least seven running touchdowns. 11 of his touchdowns came from inside the 10-yd-line and all from inside the 20. That’s a high percentage. Despite the touchdowns, Conner is actually near the bottom of the table in terms of yards per carry. Of all the NFL halfbacks with at least 150 leads this season, Conner has the second lowest number of yards per carry (3.7). Only Myles Gaskin of Miami has less (3.4).

All of this goes to say that there’s more than a handful of running backs you could argue about to earn your final Pro Bowl vote, and Ezekiel Elliott is most likely a fringe Pro Bowl returning in 2021 as is, but why should you waste your vote on Zeke when it could be spent on Pollard? The man is not even the starting running back of his team, but he was certainly the best.

Sure, Pollard’s touchdown numbers aren’t as big as Conner or Ekeler or even Zeke, but Pollard had virtually zero opportunity to enter the endzone. Pollard has only had one carry from inside the five-yard line this season. This ties him in 90th place in the league, behind the likes of Cam Newton, who has only played in four games this year. He is less than Jeff Wilson Jr., who has only played five games in the whole year and is his team’s fourth row running back. He’s fewer than Sam Darnold, Derrick Gore, Larry Rountree and … goodness … Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr.With 107 consecutive wins this season, Pollard is the second most used running back in the NFL with one or fewer touches all. inside the 5-yard line (MIN Alexander Mattison – 116). However, Mattison has had the privilege of being his team’s feature again in three games. Pollard never had this opportunity.

Of all the qualified running backs, Pollard is second in yards per carry (5.6), behind only Jonathan Taylor. Pollard is above Nick Chubb and Dalvin Cook in that category. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, well obviously his yards per transport will be high, it’s the step change that means more often than not, his legs will be cool when he’s given the transports. Sure, that could be it, but it doesn’t explain why Pollard is ahead of other big yard pace changes for carries such as Javonte Williams (4.8), AJ Dillon (4.3), Rhamondre Stevenson (4.3), and Jamaal Williams (4.2). . Aside from Javonte Williams, Pollard also has more carries than any of these guys.

Compare these numbers with Zeke now. Elliott has averaged 4.4 yards per carry over the season. Although Derrick Henry averaged just 4.3 years before getting injured, but this is a comparison between two running backs from the exact same team. This means that both Elliott and Pollard always run behind the same offensive line. Yes, Pollard’s legs are probably cooler more often, but Pollard’s score of 5.6 is still higher than Elliott’s career figures in the first quarter of games (4.4) with a large margin. The first quarter should be when Elliott’s legs are coolest, but his numbers are still far from Pollard’s.

Not to mention, Zeke has been incredibly ineffective as a powerrunner this season. In situations where the Cowboys have 1-3 yards to go before the first down marker, Elliott averages 2.8 yards per carry over 36 attempts. Its ineffectiveness in these scenarios is probably one of the main reasons why the Cowboys offensive line ranks 21st in power success rate while it ranks second in total rectified line yards. It’s not a normal discrepancy, and Elliott’s inability to move forward in short-range situations is likely to be the culprit.

Pollard leads Elliott in early downs for carries, despite having a higher carry rate on both first and second downs. Pollard drives Elliott in runs over 20 yards. It has a much higher percentage of explosive races. In nearly every aspect of his game aside from blocking passes, Pollard has been superior to Elliott this season.

There are factors that play into this such as the freshness, which I have already entered, and the game situation, but all in all, the Cowboys backfield situation increasingly resembles the 2019 Chargers backfield situation. Melvin Gordon was the holder of the Chargers, but was constantly overshadowed by the Austin Ekeler pace change. Now, just two years later, Ekeler is regarded as one of the best all-round defenders in the NFL. Give it a few years and, barring a revival of Zeke and / or the lack of opportunities given to Pollard, Pollard will likely find himself in the same boat. It might not be a flashy pick like Elliott, Conner, Ekeler, or Fournette, but if you’re feeling wild as you vote for the Pro Bowl tonight or tomorrow, give Pollard a chance. He certainly deserved it more than Zeke.

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