Why Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott is Most Overlooked RB1 Value in 2022 Fantasy Football
Ezekiel Elliott might be overpaid and will never lead the league in efficiency, but he's a perfectly viable RB1 for fantasy football.
There are plenty of reasons that Elliott has been on the bad end of some slander within fantasy football. For one, Elliott's role in the offense has kept Tony Pollard from getting a bigger role despite better efficiency numbers since coming to Dallas.
However, there's a tremendous amount of value for fantasy football drafters who are getting him at his current average draft position. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Elliott is going with the second pick of the third round in PPR formats.
Here's why Elliott is going to make the managers who are able to get him at that price look like geniuses by the end of the season.
Better Health in 2022
There's no denying that Elliott didn't look his best in 2021. The back was just visually not as explosive as backfield mate Tony Pollard, and his numbers bore that out.
Elliott averaged just 4.2 yards per carry, including a career-low 1.7 yards after contact.
While there's an argument to be made that could be age showing for Zeke, it could also be a product of the injuries Elliott suffered through last season, including a partially torn PCL.
"It definitely was frustrating and definitely frustrating certain parts of the year, but it's football," Elliott told reporters on the first day of camp. "I think today might be the only day everyone's going to be 100 percent."
The 27-year-old has a lot of mileage entering his seventh season in the league. He has 1,650 carries to his name across 88 games. It's a bit of a concern, but he is still three years away from 30 and is coming off a season in which he had a career-low 237 attempts.
Ultimately, it could lead to a refreshed Elliott ready to put up numbers we haven't seen from him in two years.
He's Still the Lead Back
Elliott's career-low in carries last season could be seen as a reason for fantasy managers to be apprehensive about him this season. There's certainly an element of concern that's warranted with Tony Pollard earning a role in the offense.
But Jerry Jones is still a man with plenty of pull within the Cowboys organization, and he made no bones about who is still the top back.
"We gotta have Tony Pollard out there. No, seriously, Zeke's gotta be our feature, and he is our feature," the team owner recently told reporters. "We can feature him in a lot of different ways."
In other words, Pollard might get a bigger role, but Zeke isn't going anywhere.
Perhaps the most important factor to consider when accounting for Elliott's role in the offense is who gets the touches in the red zone. According to Football Guys, 100 percent of Pollard's carries last season were between the 20s.
When accounting for basic touches and targets, Elliott was 20th in the league in opportunity share, per PlayerProfiler. However, he was sixth in weighted opportunity share, which gives more weight to high-value touches such as goal-line carries.
The team will have to replace the production of Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson Jr. That could wind up meaning more running plays and increased opportunity for both Elliott and Pollard.
The easiest argument to make for Ezekiel Elliott is that we've literally never seen a season from him in which he wasn't an RB1 for fantasy managers.
To reach RB1 status, one has to finish as a top-12 running back. Using FantasyPros PPR scoring, Elliott has never had a season in which he didn't finish in the top 12.
The back's worst finish came in 2017 when he finished 12th. That was with him missing six games because of suspension. That year he was third on a points-per-game basis.
Elliott burned a lot of fantasy managers last year because of where he was drafted. His ADP was in the top five as he still had the reputation of a back who could carry your fantasy team.
Those days may be over, but he can't be completely discounted. Finding Elliott in the late second round or early third could be a huge value. For those who splurge on a premium wide receiver or tight end early, Elliott will work as a low-end RB1 who could help you win your league.
That's been his floor every year.