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Should Ezekiel Elliott be the #2 pick in fantasy drafts?

By Jared Smola 11:05am EDT 5/12/20


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What You Need to Know:

  • Elliott finished 3rd among RBs in PPR points and 4th in non-PPR last year.
  • He’s now been a top-5 fantasy back in all 4 of his NFL seasons.
  • Dallas needs to replace C Travis Frederick, who retired this offseason.
  • Elliott has even more target competition this year after the Cowboys added 1st-round rookie WR CeeDee Lamb.


2019 in review

Elliott spent last summer in Cabo, holding out for a new deal. He got that deal — 6 years, $90 million — just a few days before Week 1. And then he resumed being a fantasy stud.

Zeke was a bit limited in the opener, playing 54% of Dallas’ offensive snaps and handling 13 carries and 2 targets. But he posted a 67+% snap rate in each of the final 15 games, carried 16+ times in 12 of them and saw 19+ opportunities (carries + targets) in 14.

Elliott tallied 100+ total yards in 9 games and failed to reach 70 just 3 times. He hit pay dirt in 10 contests, including 4 multi-TD outings. Zeke didn’t finish a single week worse than 26th among RBs in PPR points. He cracked the top 15 in 11 different weeks, including 5 top-5 finishes.

Elliott’s final numbers: 301 carries, 1,357 yards and 12 TDs. All 3 marks ranked top 5 league-wide. Zeke added a 54-420-2 receiving line to rank 3rd among RBs in PPR points and 4th in non-PPR.


Consistently dominant

It was just more of the same from Elliott. Outside of his 2017 season that was interrupted by a 6-game suspension, he’s finished 2nd, 5th and 3rd in PPR points and 2nd, 5th and 4th in non-PPR. And in 2017, Zeke ranked 3rd in PPR points per game and 2nd in non-PPR.

Elliott’s career 96.5 rushing yards per game ranks 4th in NFL history. He’s still (somehow) turning just 25 in July. And he’s yet to miss a single game due to injury as a pro. Solid.


Concerns

If we’re picking nits, we have 2 minor concerns with Zeke heading into 2020.

The first is the loss of C Travis Frederick, who surprisingly announced his retirement in mid-March. He’ll be replaced by either veteran Joe Looney or 4th-round rookie Tyler Biadasz. Looney started all 16 games for Dallas back in 2018 and wasn’t very good, ranking 33rd among 36 qualifying Cs in Pro Football Focus’ run-blocking grades. Biadasz was a 3-year starter at Wisconsin but has needed hip and shoulder surgeries over the past 12 months. This will be a situation to monitor this summer. But with Dallas returning last year’s other 4 O-line starters, this still looks like 1 of the better units in the league.

The other concern with Elliott is his role in the passing game. His receiving production dropped from 77-567-3 in 2018 to 54-420-2 last year. That’s a loss of 43.7 PPR points (and 20.7 non-PPR). Elliott’s targets fell from 95 to 71, and his target share from 18.0% to 11.9%.

Now, Zeke still ranked top 12 at his position in targets, catches and receiving yards last year. But it’s possible his volume takes another hit with 1st-round rookie WR CeeDee Lamb joining Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. RB Tony Pollard also returns for his 2nd season, although Elliott beat him last year in yards per catch and yards per target. Ultimately, we’re not expecting Zeke’s passing-game role to change much from 2019. But it’ll be something to keep an eye on this summer.


Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

Elliott is 1 of the safest RB picks in all of fantasy football. He’s been a top-5 scorer in both PPR and non-PPR in each of his 4 NFL seasons. He’ll be just 25 when the 2020 campaign kicks off. And he hasn’t missed a single game with injury as a pro.

No argument here against drafting Elliott once Christian McCaffrey is off the board. And Zeke shouldn’t get out of the top 5 in any fantasy draft.


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