FRISCO, Texas– One arrived in Dallas with great expectations as the fourth overall draft pick. The other began training camp as a third-string fourth-round pick.
Tuesday, 14 games into their NFL careers, Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott are officially Pro Bowlers.
The standout rookies are among five Cowboys named to the NFC roster for the NFL's annual all-star game, joining offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin.
This year the league is restoring the traditional NFC vs. AFC format after three years of drafting players to teams regardless of conference affiliation. The Pro Bowl is set for Jan. 29, 2017, in Orlando, Fla., the week before Super Bowl LI – though the Cowboys and five other NFC teams will vie this postseason for the chance to keep playing into February.
Earlier this month, Elliott and Prescott were the overall leaders in fan voting, which counts for one-third of all voting criteria. Players and coaches determined the other two-thirds of the vote.
For the first time ever, the Cowboys are sending two rookies to the Pro Bowl. Prior to this season, only eight other Cowboys rookies made it to a Pro Bowl: Don Perkins (1961), Mel Renfro (1964), Bob Hayes (1965), Calvin Hill (1969), Everson Walls (1981), Emmitt Smith (1990), Nick Folk (2007) and Martin (2014).
Elliott and Prescott have been a major factor in the Cowboys' rise from a 4-12 record last season to the league's best record in 2016 (12-2).
Elliott leads the league in rushing with 1,551 yards through 14 games – more than any NFL player gained all of last season. This past Sunday, he set the franchise record for most rushing touchdowns in a rookie season (13). He's the fourth Cowboys rookie running back to make the Pro Bowl.
Prescott, the Cowboys' first rookie Pro Bowl quarterback, became the starter in preseason after Tony Romo and Kellen Moore got injured. He ranks third in the league in passer rating (103.2) with a 67.7 completion percentage, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also has six rushing touchdowns, breaking Don Meredith's single-season franchise record.
Prescott joins Kyle Orton (Chicago Bears, 2005) as the second rookie quarterback in the NFL drafted in the fourth round or later to start the team's first 14 games of the season. He trails only Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers, 2004) in wins for a rookie quarterback in his first 14 starts.
Joining Elliott and Prescott on the NFC squad are three Cowboys veterans with multiple Pro Bowl trips.
Smith, Frederick and Martin – three-fifths of the team's powerful offensive line – have been selected together for the third straight year. This is Smith's fourth career Pro Bowl and the third for Frederick and Martin.
A notable exclusion is linebacker Sean Lee, who made his first Pro Bowl last year and leads the Cowboys' defense in tackles once again. In Week 14 against the New York Giants, Lee produced 22 team-credited tackles according to the coaches' film -- the most ever by a Cowboys player in a single game. Tight end Jason Witten also had a solid résumé for what would've been an 11th career Pro Bowl selection: 66 catches for 630 yards and two touchdowns.