Conventional NFL wisdom says you shouldn’t make costly investments in running backs, and we can wonder if the Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants made the right call with their star guards. .
But there’s no denying that Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley are two of the best in the game.
The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants face off Monday night, a game that can be streamed live on the Yahoo Sports app. It’s a rare game between two teams that are built around a running back. That’s not the norm in a league that values passing and has devalued running backs.
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Barkley and Elliott are undeniably great, but which one is better?
Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott among the best
Barkley and Elliott were the few running back prospects each selected in the top five of the draft. Elliott was the fourth pick in the 2016 draft, ahead of future All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Barkley was the second overall pick in the 2018 draft, edging out quarterback Sam Darnold.
Both players have been quite productive:
Barkley (21 games): 80 rushing yards per game, 5.0 yards average, 42 receiving yards per game, 7.8 yards per reception, 0.86 touchdowns per game
Elliott (47 games): 98.9 rushing yards per game, 4.6 yards average, 29.3 receiving yards per game, 8.6 yards per reception, 0.85 touchdowns per game
Elliott has more total yards per game, but played with a much better offensive line. Barkley is a terrific receiver, but Elliott can also catch the ball. Elliott hit a career high with 77 catches last season.
Elliott has two rushing titles and could have had a third had he not been suspended at the start of the 2017 season (Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards per game that season). Barkley led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage in his first NFL season last year.
It would be difficult to choose one over the other. And they will both face each other in NFC East games for a while. Barkley is 22 and Elliott just turned 24.
Cowboys, giants built around their backs
The Cowboys signed Elliott to a six-year, $90 million deal after resistance during the preseason. It shows how much the Cowboys appreciate him. Presumably, Barkley will top that. He was a top running back prospect for many, many years and lived up to that billing.
In a better situation, perhaps Barkley could win rushing titles like Elliott. Barkley has an unrivaled skill set, but it’s hard to argue with Elliott’s consistency and production. He is the rare running back who rarely leaves the field and never seems to get injured or burnt out.
There will be a lot of interest in Monday night’s game from fantasy football players. Barkley and Elliott were first-round picks in most drafts. They had the fourth and fifth best-selling NFL jerseys last season. In a league with teams trying to fill running backs with trading options, these two superstars stand out.
It’s hard to choose just one.
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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Do you have any advice? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab