Ahead of the 2020 NFL season, ESPN asked "more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players" to vote on the best players at 11 different positions. On Thursday, ESPN released its running back rankings, and there was a bit of controversy near the top of the list.
Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey took the No. 1 and No. 2 slots, respectively, ahead of Ezekiel Elliott, though the 24-year-old did earn several first-place votes. One NFL personnel evaluator went so far as to say Elliott may have "the best natural traits" of any back in the league.
He also received some criticism from an anonymous NFL offensive coach, who didn't place the Cowboys star in his top 10 and noted Elliott "doesn't look as strong anymore." A different coordinator told ESPN that Elliott isn't incredibly elusive out of the backfield as a pass-catcher.
One NFL offensive coach ranked #Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott as the 11th-best RB in the NFL.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) July 9, 2020
"Very few breakout runs, doesn't look as strong anymore. Feels like he's about 60 to 70 percent of what he was."https://t.co/g0RVDhmzFJ
Elliott, who signed a six-year, $90 million extension with the Cowboys last September after holding out through training camp, happened to see those comments.
"Whoever that is, is faded lol," Elliott said.
Whoever that is, is faded lol https://t.co/mCqdYv1U2a— Ezekiel Elliott (@EzekielElliott) July 9, 2020
So why did Elliott use the word "faded" in his tweet? That's a reference to Elliott saying he was "low-key faded" during a Twitch stream in June. He later clarified that he only had consumed a few drinks after Sports Illustrated suggested he may have been smoking marijuana.
"A previous version of this story included a headline with an incorrect interpretation of Elliott's meaning of 'faded,'" Sports Illustrated said in a correction. "We apologize and regret the error."
I expect that from little gossip site but Sports Illustrated? REALLY?— Ezekiel Elliott (@EzekielElliott) June 29, 2020
With no holdout concerns this year, Elliott will be ready to prove he's the best running back in the NFL. If he produces at a Pro Bowl level, then maybe that "faded" coach will change up those rankings in 2021.