McFadden Sees Elliott as "Awesome Runner;" But Still Ready to Compete

IRVING, Texas– He was the No. 4 overall pick in the NFL Draft and the first running back selected.

A complete beast in college, he was drafted to not only rejuvenate an offense, but provide elite ability to a team in need of more playmakers at the skill positions.  

Sound familiar? While that should fit the description the Cowboys have for rookie Ezekiel Elliott, it's not too far from the plan Oakland had for Darren McFadden some eight years earlier.

Now, the two are competing for playing time, although the veteran fully understands the business now. He knows where the Cowboys will be leaning to when it's time to carve out specific roles for the offense.

"They picked him high, he's going to play and get his touches," McFadden said of Elliott. "I know what that's like. But there's a role for all of us. We're not afraid of competition and I know he'll bring out the best in us and we'll bring out the best in him."

While it's not often a player who finishes fourth in the NFL in rushing (1,089 yards) the previous year sees his team draft a first-round running back the next spring, McFadden doesn't seem too concerned with Elliott's arrival.

Yes, he knows the Ohio State rookie will get his touches, McFadden said he plans on giving Elliott the same mentor treatment he received in 2008.

"We had a guy named Justin Fargas," McFadden said. "He was competing with me but he still took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. I plan on doing that with (Elliott) and any young guy."

Elliott is one of two rookie tailbacks drafted this year by the Cowboys along with sixth-round pick Darius Jackson. The Cowboys also signed four-year veteran Alfred Morris in free agency, although the former Redskins back has three 1,000-yard seasons under his belt and has made two Pro Bowls.

Still, McFadden said he's not worried at all how the running back position will evolve over the next few months.

"I've been around the game long enough to know there's always going to be a new guy coming in," McFadden said. "Coach (Jason) Garrett talks about wanting to create competition at all positions. I've been doing that my whole career, even in college."

[embeddedad0]McFadden, an All-American running back at Arkansas where he finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting both in 2006 and 2007, shared the backfield with Felix Jones, who was drafted that same 2008 draft by the Cowboys with the 22nd overall pick.

"I don't mind sharing the ball," McFadden said. "It's a team sport. You need a lot of guys to keep it going. Zeke is an awesome runner. I love being around him."

And it sounds like the feelings are mutual for Elliott, who welcomes all kind of veteran leadership and competition from his experienced teammates.

"Those guys have already helped me a lot," Elliott said. "There's no animosity or anything like that. We work hard and we push each other. Nothing is going to be given to me and I need to work for it. Those guys are hungry and I need to be hungry just like them."

McFadden said he was the same way when he entered the NFL eight years ago, but certainly felt the pressure of being such a high draft pick.

"For me coming in, I tried to be very humble," McFadden said. "Being the fourth overall pick, there's going to be a lot of weight on your shoulders. But I think it's something Zeke can handle. He's been doing a great job in OTAs and he's a hard worker."

While they've come into the NFL from similar paths, McFadden admits Elliott's supporting cast, which includes Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and an offensive line with three Pro Bowlers, is not exactly what he had in Oakland in 2008.

"Nah, I didn't have all of that," McFadden joked. "But those guys make it a lot easier for all of us. So he's got some great leaders around him."

And McFadden should be included in that group. Even though he'll be pushing the rookie for carries and playing time along the way.  

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