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D’Onta Foreman says Ezekiel Elliott's rookie season helped this year's running backs

Now Foreman says this draft class has to do the same for future running backs.

TCU v Texas Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images

Former Texas Longhorn D’onta Foreman says the Dallas CowboysEzekiel Elliott did this draft’s backs a favor by playing so well in his rookie season.

“Honestly, I really feel like he helped the backs out a lot with his performance and got drafted high,” Foreman said Thursday at the Combine. “Some of those people didn’t really live up to what people felt like they would.”

Foreman isn’t alone, either. LSU’s Leonard Fournette and FSU’s Dalvin Cook each said the same thing about Elliott when speaking to the media on Thursday.

As NFL offenses have transitioned to focus more on the pass, running backs have been de-emphasized. Very few teams rely on the old school ground-and-pound approach, but in 2016 with Elliott, the Cowboys certainly did.

Elliott finished the season with 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground, and added 363 receiving yards and a touchdown through the air. He led the league in rushing, and was fundamentally important to the offensive attack that got Dallas to a 13-3 finish and the top seed in the NFC last season. Elliott proved that the Cowboys were wise to use the No. 4 pick on him last year.

Former NFL running back Herschel Walker said he sees Elliott and Foreman as the types of players who can change the way teams view the position. Walker also said that’s the way teams win games.

"Even though they talk about the West Coast offense and all this stuff, to be honest, whenever you want to win the Super Bowl, who do you go to? The running back.” Walker said via the Dallas Morning News. “Because you can pass the ball all you want to do, but when you want to win the game you better be able to run the ball and you better have that running back."

Now Foreman says it’s up to this group of backs to do the same for running backs in the future.

“I still think with us coming into the NFL, we’ve still got to work hard and move it back to where it was at first, but I feel like he definitely started it,” Foreman said.

Foreman declared for the draft after finishing his junior season with 2,028 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. He did that over just 11 games with the Longhorns in 2016. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock doesn’t have Foreman ranked in his top five running backs, but ESPN’s Todd McShay places Foreman at No. 5 in his rankings.