Ezekiel Elliott wants to get better at second level

By Alex Butler  |  May 9, 2017 at 1:44 PM
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May 9 (UPI) -- Look out NFL.

Dallas Cowboys stud Ezekiel Elliott is vying to be a more dominant runner in his second season.

The All-Pro running back led the league with 1,631 yards during his rookie campaign, but didn't seem satisfied with that production in a recent interview.

He told reporters Monday that he can improve his play when he gets into the second level.

"Becoming a more dominant second-level runner," Elliott said at the Reliant Home Run Derby benefiting the Salvation Army. "I think there were a couple times last year where I could've been [better] on certain runs when I got to the second level. So just kinda focused on finishing my runs and making guys miss at the second level."

Elliott, 21, also led the league with 322 rushing attempts last season. The No. 4 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft was also tops in the NFL with 14 runs of 20 yards or longer. His three jaunts of 40 yards or longer tied for second behind the Miami Dolphins' Jay Ajayi. Elliott ran for 91 first downs last season, also the most in the NFL.

At the same time, Elliott says that he isn't consumed by "numbers and records," despite setting some in his first season.

"I don't think it's really healthy to be mesmerized by numbers and records, consumed by winning awards and that stuff, I really don't," Elliott told DallasCowboys.com. "It's a team sport and you aren't remembered for your numbers. You're remembered by how many championships you won. You win a few championships, you've had a memorable career at that point.

Elliott should be a top-3 pick in your fantasy football draft next season, likely behind Arizona Cardinals star David Johnson and dynamic Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell.

To nitpick, the reason he could slip a bit from his 2016 numbers is the fact that the Cowboys experienced several losses from its dominant offensive line. The franchise is trying out Jonathan Cooper at left guard and La'el Collins is moving from left guard to right tackle this season. It lost last season's right tackle Doug Free to retirement and left guard Ronald Leary in free agency.

The right tackle situation will be the most important for Elliott.

Last season, Elliott rushed for 586 yards on runs to his right side. He ran for 325 yards in runs to his left side. He also scored seven touchdowns on the right side and three touchdowns on the left side.

Based on his 716-snaps in 2016 and coach Jason Garrett's evaluation that Elliott "got better as the game went on," I don't expect the Cowboys to ease up on his workload whatsoever.

"Well, he certainly handled the opportunities we gave him really well, both as a runner, blocker and as a receiver," Garrett told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in March. "We thought he got better and better as the game went on and really as the year went on as well. I thought he handled it really well. He's one of those players you want to have on the field, you want to give opportunities because he makes such a big difference to your football team."

Don't let the Cowboys' offensive line changes make you pass on Elliott in the top-5 picks. But you can use those issues if you are tasked with picking a player in the top-3 of your fantasy football draft.

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