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Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott is the NFC East offensive MVP

Ezekiel Elliott had the third-best season ever for a rookie running back in the NFL with 1,631 yards. Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is the NFC East offensive most valuable player, as voted on by the four reporters covering the division for ESPN.com.

Todd Archer, Cowboys reporter: I went with Dak Prescott as my top rookie because I went with Elliott, the league’s leading rusher, as the MVP. I understand it’s a quarterback-driven league, but I believe Elliott made Prescott’s job easier, not the other way around. Yes, he has an offensive line that features three Pro Bowlers, but he changed the dynamic of the Cowboys’ offense in 2016. Darren McFadden was solid behind the same line in 2015, but there was a vast difference with Elliott. He picked up the “dirty” yards and he hit the big plays. He wore down defenses late in games. He also set team rookie records in yards (1,631) and touchdowns (15) and he did it in 15 games and after a 51-yard performance in the opener.

Jordan Raanan, New York Giants reporter: Since this is an individual award, I’m not going to give it to the Cowboys' offensive line. And there’s not one single Dallas lineman who would warrant the honor. So I’m giving it to the guy who ran through those holes and ran over and through defenders: Elliott is my NFC East offensive MVP. He’s a game-changing talent, and really a generational player. Elliott led the league in rushing by a wide margin and displayed such a diverse skill set. He’s as capable of powering through a defender on third-and-short as he is hitting the open field and breaking a long run for a touchdown. There was a reason he was selected fourth overall in last year’s draft. And it paid off big time this season. His presence alone was the No. 1 reason for the Cowboys’ sudden turnaround.

Tim McManus, Philadelphia Eagles reporter: Elliott (1,631 yards) flirted with Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record and had 16 total touchdowns. His production kept the pressure off rookie Prescott and was the driving force for an offense that finished fifth in the NFL.

John Keim, Washington Redskins reporter: When the Cowboys drafted Elliott, one Redskins offensive coach was upset. He felt having Elliott would make a bigger impact on the Dallas defense than any defensive player the Cowboys might have drafted. He was right. Elliott rushed for 1,631 yards and did not play in the last six quarters of the regular season. Yes, he ran behind a great line, but there was a difference between when he ran and when anyone else did. Look at these numbers: Dallas averaged just 3.78 yards per carry when Elliott wasn’t in the game. Elliott’s vision enabled him to gain 3.10 yards before contact. All the line, right? Well, backs not named Elliott managed just 2.13 yards before contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Elliott managed 1.96 yards after contact, compared with 1.65 for the other backs. Elliott’s success enabled Dallas to play ball-control, and that allowed Prescott to flourish and the Cowboys to win 13 games.