Dallas Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals might rank first and second in the NFL in rushing, respectively, but neither was awarded the label of “the best young running back in the NFL.” That distinction instead belongs to Le’Veon Bell.
This, according to Robert Mays for The Ringer anyway, who took an in-depth look at all three backs and determined the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Pro Bowl selection entered the season as the cream of the crop, and through seven weeks, still remains on top.
Johnson and Elliott likely will be superstars for years to come, but as of now, they still have some work to do, according to Mays, if they want to unseat Bell as the league’s premier young running back. No one affects the game more substantially and in more ways from that position — a fact that Bell’s agents are sure to mention when he hits free agency next spring.
What Mays is alluding to, other than Bell’s impending free agency, of course, is the third-year player’s unmatched ability as a receiver out of the backfield. While Johnson is an exceptional pass catcher, and Elliott can contribute here as well, Bell frequently lines up as an actual wideout, where he can hurt opponents or open things up for the rest of Pittsburgh’s offense.
The conclusion seems to be that while Elliott and Johnson may be better in terms of measureables and even as pure ballcarriers, but Bell is still big, strong and fast with excellent — perhaps superior — vision, only with an added dimension neither of the other two possess.
Case in point, Elliott is averaging 133.5 total yards from scrimmage per game and Johnson is averaging 143.4. Bell is averaging 147.3, and simply is a more versatile weapon than the other two.
It’s a highly subjective argument, although very well-reasoned. Of course, Mays also allows for the possibility of either Elliott or Johnson surpassing Bell.
Still,if you could only take one right now, it’s difficult to disagree with the conclusion drawn here.