In a new poll by ESPN NFL Insiders, the 2016 rushing leader found himself on the bench behind a player that hasn’t even stepped on an NFL field.
Drafted No. 2 overall in the draft in May, the Giants’ Saquon Barkley was ranked as the second-best running back in the league under 25 years old. Last season’s Offensive Player of the Year, Todd Gurley was ranked No. 1.
Barkley and Elliott compare nicely together after playing in the same conference together, each leaving for the NFL their junior season. Even with Barkley starting as a freshman while Elliott shared carries his first year, Zeke still holds a few numbers over Barkley’s head.
In three years with the Buckeyes, Elliott put together 3,961 yards and 43 touchdowns to Barkley’s 3,843 yards and 43 touchdowns on 79 more carries in Happy Valley. Elliott also had two seasons over 1,800 yards rushing while Barkley never passed 1,500 yards.
Though, Barkley can hold at least one victory over Elliott after their single meeting in Elliott’s last college season. In a 38-10 Ohio State win, Barkley rushed for 194 yards on 26 carries (7.5-yard average) while Zeke put up 153 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries (5.7-yard average).
Scouts also seemed a bit more enamored by Barkley’s athleticism which ran a few ticks faster in the 40 at the combine. Despite the gaudy numbers there, he has a tough road ahead to top Elliott’s rookie campaign of 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns.
If Barkley puts up similar numbers to lead the league in rushing yards this year, he’d be the third-consecutive rookie to top the league after Kareem Hunt led the league in 2017. Though, if Elliott was not temporarily suspended last season, he might have defended his crown averaging a league-best 98.3 yards per game.
Barkley was not the only Giants player on the list. He was joined by Landon Collins and Evan Engram while the Cowboys were ousted from the list (but neither did any other NFC East team). DeMarcus Lawrence and Travis Frederick just missed the age cutoff, while Zack Martin and Tyron Smith are two years ineligible.
But Elliott has two more years to get his name back on the list after entering the league at 20 years old.