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Ezekiel Elliott is a first-round pick in Fantasy Football. If you don’t think he is, that’s your problem.
The theory of a very talented, very prepared rookie running back working behind the best offensive line in football put Elliott near first-round territory in the first place. Seeing him actually play with the big guys is what clinches it.
Against a hostile Seahawks defense, Elliott and the Cowboys run game looked very good. The running back displayed speed to hit the edges, cuts to make defenders miss or over-run coverage and vision to follow his massive blockers.
He was also physical, pushing Seahawks defenders on his runs for extra yards, blocking very well to protect his quarterback and even took punishment when the Legion of Boom tried to hit him hard.
When the coaching staff pulled him from the game after two series, Elliott had 48 yards on seven carries — with five carries going for at least 5 yards.
He delivered, but let’s remind ourselves why Elliott is expected to perform like a No. 1 Fantasy running back.
- Elliott himself is a heck of a talent. In 35 games at Ohio State he averaged 6.7 yards per carry, 7.7 yards per catch, 126.0 yards per game and a touchdown every 13.8 carries. And we just saw him look mighty impressive in his first preseason taste.
- Since the Cowboys decided to invest heavily in their offensive line, their run game has flourished. They averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 2013, 4.6 yards per carry in 2014 and 4.6 yards per carry in 2015. Their running backs notched 11 games with 10-plus Fantasy points in 2013, 16 in 2014 and 11 in 2015. Keep in mind that the 2015 campaign was with Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden, who had his best year since 2010 because of that system. Everyone should agree Elliott is better than those guys.
- Of the Cowboys 2016 opponents, only two (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh) ranked in the top 10 last year in run defense. The only other defenses that might cause legitimate run defense concerns are the Redskins, Packers and Vikings, and even then, Elliott will play a role in the pass game when the run game isn’t working.
Is Elliott a rookie who has never taken a regular-season snap? Of course, but that doesn’t mean he’s not good. It just means we haven’t seen him play yet.
Is Elliott going to lose touches to other Cowboys running backs? Of course, maybe more so at the beginning of the year. It doesn’t mean he’s not going to touch the ball. A lot. The Cowboys didn’t draft him at No. 4 overall so Alfred Morris could play half of the game.
Is Elliott already coming off a hamstring injury? Yes, but the Cowboys acted very responsibly and let Elliott rest. They know the investment they made in Elliott and were smart with him. Plus he just played in a game. He’s healthy now.
Is Elliott the subject of some concerning off-field situations? Yes. As of this writing, there are no pending charges against Elliott for any wrong doing. If that changes, getting cold feet with Elliott is understandable, but it also emphasizes the relative importance of getting his backup, Morris, with a pick eight or nine rounds later. If anything happens to Elliott then it’s Morris who benefits from the Cowboys offensive line.
These concerns should not outweigh Elliott’s positives at all.
Weighing expectations and projections are a huge part of Fantasy Football. It’s easy to fall into the trap of drafting players based on what they’ve done instead of what they’re expected to do.
The name of the game is to look forward and find those good players in favorable situations. That’s exactly why Elliott is ranked where he is. Getting him early and Alfred Morris with a Round 9 or 10 pick makes a lot of sense.
Ezekiel Elliott is a first-round pick in Fantasy Football. If you still don’t think he is, that’s your problem.