Two rookies with Big Ten roots led the NFL in rushing following the league’s final regular-season weekend.
Sitting at No. 1 is Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, formerly of Ohio State, with 1,631 yards, which isn’t much of a shock considering he had been taken at No. 4 overall in the draft and was immediately plugged in as the bell cow behind Dallas’ vaunted offensive line.
The No. 2 rusher is the bigger surprise.
Hidden Stat of the Day:
The 150th pick in the draft, Jordan Howard, was second in the NFL in rushing, with 1,313 yards.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) January 2, 2017
Former Indiana running back Jordan Howard, taken in the fifth round, was expected to sit in the lowly Bears’ depth chart behind Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, and Jacquizz Rodgers. However, he worked his way up throughout preseason and the early weeks of the regular season, eventually taking a starting role by Week 3.
Amazing that Jordan Howard finished second in the NFL in rushing yards. Only started 13 games & had 20+ carries in a game just 4 times
— Matt Eurich (@MattEurich) January 2, 2017
Although the Bears didn’t have a great season, finishing at 3-13, Howard was a rare bright spot. He was also a pleasant surprise for anyone who picked him in fantasy football.
Success for former Big Ten players wasn’t limited to running backs. Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who played for Purdue more than a decade ago, led the NFL in passing yards for the seventh time in his career with 5,208. At third with 4,917 yards was former Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins, now with Washington.
The Big Ten had less of a showing in the receiving yards category, but its top representative at No. 9 still impresses. New Orleans’ Michael Thomas, previously at Ohio State, finished with 1,137 yards, so keep that in mind lest you think Elliott is the lone Buckeye rookie enjoying success on offense in the NFL.