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Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has a chance to join NFL’s 10K rushing yard club in 2024

Much has been said about the Dallas Cowboys running back room in 2024, you can check out this assessment of the position group ahead of training camp. It is my personal opinion that Ezekiel Elliott will see the lion’s share of touches out of the backfield for the group, but that obviously remains to be seen. Assuming that is the case, then Elliott has a chance to join an exclusive NFL club this coming season.

Obviously Zeke has played a majority of his career to date with the Cowboys save for his season abroad with the New England Patriots last year. In that time he has seen the majority of the workload out of the backfield for the team but it goes without saying that circumstances are a bit different.

In Zeke’s previous seven seasons with the Cowboys he has reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark on four different occasions. He will need a bit more than that for the history we are talking about here as at the moment he is sitting on 8,904 career rushing yards.

Some simple math will tell you that Elliott needs 1,096 yards this season in order to join Club 10K. At the moment there are only 31 players in NFL history to have reached that mark.

  1. Emmitt Smith (18,355)
  2. Walter Payton (16,726)
  3. Frank Gore (16,000)
  4. Barry Sanders (15,269)
  5. Adrian Peterson (14,918)
  6. Curtis Martin (14,101)
  7. LaDainian Tomlinson (13,684)
  8. Jerome Bettis (13,662)
  9. Eric Dickerson (13,259)
  10. Tony Dorsett (12,739)
  11. Jim Brown (12,312)
  12. Marshall Faulk (12,279)
  13. Edgerrin James (12,246)
  14. Marcus Allen (12,243)
  15. Frano Harris (12,120)
  16. Thurman Thomas (12,074)
  17. Fred Taylor (11,695)
  18. Steven Jackson (11,438)
  19. John Riggins (11,352)
  20. Corey Dillon (11,241)
  21. O.J. Simpson (11,236)
  22. LeSean McCoy (11,102)
  23. Warrick Dunn (10,967)
  24. Ricky Watters (10,643)
  25. Jamal Lewis (10,607)
  26. Thomas Jones (10,591)
  27. Tiki Barber (10,449)
  28. Eddie George (10,441)
  29. Marshawn Lynch (10,413)
  30. Ottis Anderson (10,273)
  31. Ricky Williams (10,009)

This is obviously quite the list and it features the two greatest running backs in franchise history in Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett. There are plenty of other runners who have a bust in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame just like Smith and Dorsett, though.

Interestingly there is not a single player in the Hall of Fame who reached the 10K club but did not make it to 11K; however, there are players south of 10K rushing yards who have been enshrined like Joe Perry (9,723), Earl Campbell (9,407), Jim Taylor (8,597), Larry Csonka (8,081), Terrell Davis (7,607), John Henry Johnson (6,803) and Steve Van Buren (5,860). As if this were not known, football has been played different by different people at different points in time and as a result that has churned out players who have done a variety of things.

But relative to modern times it stands to reason that if Zeke were to want his own gold jacket that he would have to do a bit more than reach 10K rushing yards (winning a Super Bowl certainly would not hurt). Incidentally, he is not the only active player looking to reach the mark and he likely will not even be the first to do it this season (assuming he does). Derrick Henry, now with the Baltimore Ravens and taken one round after Elliott in 2016, currently has 9,502 rushing yards to his name.

Given that he needs less than 500 yards it seems rather likely that Henry will reach the mark this season whereas Elliott is a much taller order. Back to the original point here, he needs (basically) another 1,000-yard season which feels like tough sledding at this point in his career. During his last 1K season with the Cowboys in 2021 Elliott just barely reached the mark by hitting 1,002 and did so during the 17th game of the regular season in the first year of the 17th game’s existence. The last season that saw Zeke gain the yardage required for this discussion was in 2019 when he had 1,357 rushing yards.

Odds are that Elliott will need at least two seasons in order to reach 10K although that is obviously not the primary goal of the team. It would certainly be neat to see, but again winning a title would probably go a longer way towards things like the Hall of Fame in terms of those kinds of discussions.

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