Fantasy Football: Don’t Worry About Ezekiel Elliott
If you draft a player in your fantasy football draft, particularly in the first round, you want them to immediately reward you with a high-end performance. That makes sense. After all, we live in a world centered around receiving immediate gratification. This explains the concern around Ezekiel Elliot following his Week 1 showing against the Bucs.
With just 5.9 fantasy PPR points, Elliott didn’t meet expectations placed on him. As someone drafted in the top-five in most fantasy football drafts, he’s seen as someone who should be the pillar of your fantasy football team, but there’s a chance this performance could cost you in Week 1. However, while that this is unfortunate, it doesn’t mean you cannot trust Elliott moving forward. You drafted him for a reason, and in the future, you’ll be rewarded for that decision.
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Ezekiel Elliott’s Week 1 Numbers
Let’s acknowledge the “bad news” with Elliott’s Week 1 performance. He only received 11 carries, averaged just 3 yards/attempt on them, and also earned just a 48.4 PFF rushing grade. Furthermore, he didn’t see his normal usage in the receiving game with just two targets and six receiving yards.
Nevertheless, production numbers are very volatile on a game-to-game basis. Instead, since we know that volume, and not efficiency, is what matters with running backs, we’re more worried about Elliott getting more carries and targets over time. Luckily, there are positive indicators in that department.
Elliott’s 83.33% snap rate is an extremely encouraging number; it ranked higher than it did last year and puts him in true “workhorse” running back territory. He still received 73.33% of the team’s overall running back carries, yet simply suffered from a pass-heavy attack in a game in which Dallas trailed often.
Now, then you may be wondering why Elliott didn’t accomplish more in the air. Well, his chances to get targets were there. He ran a route on 63.7% of the team’s passing downs this year, up from last year, while he was actually used less in pass protection than normal. Overall, he was on the field for 72.46% of the team’s pass snaps, as opposed to 57.06% last year (excluding his one game missed). Case in point: he had every opportunity to produce, and although, that didn’t lead to elite numbers in Week 1, it may very well in the future. This is the same three-down back that was worth your first-round investment.
Remember Why You Drafted Ezekiel Elliott
Don’t let one game make you forget why you felt comfortable drafting Ezekiel Elliott in the first place. When Dak Prescott was under centered, he not only ranked as the RB3 during that span, but, most importantly, was tied for 1st with 21.5 expected fantasy point per game.
Investing in a good offense is always an optimal idea, which added an extra element to Elliott’s profile. In those five games last year, he had 6.5 expected touchdowns, and still had multiple clear opportunities to get into the end zone on Thursday. Had one of those, mainly a pass by Dak Prescott that wasn’t accurate enough to lead Elliott into the end zone, resulted in a score, would we as a community even be expressing such concern over this performance?
I get that Tony Pollard, backed several advanced metrics, appears the most talented running back on this roster. Just remember, though, that, thanks to his contract, the Cowboys have $90 million reasons to continue to give Elliott a lot of touches. Whereas Elliott saw a lofty snap share, Pollard was on the field for just 23.8% of the snaps, several of those coming with both running backs on the field. The Memphis product’s abilities as a receiver allow him to be leveraged in the slot, and I’d expect to see them continue to co-exist in this offense.
When it is all said and done, Elliott qualifies as a workhorse running back for a very productive offense. He has immense touchdown potential, but, most important, is a dual-threat player who’ll be given a substantial amount of touches. Remember, this game also came with their best offensive lineman, Zack Martin out of auction while on the COVID-19 list. Make sure to not lose sight of all of this due to just one poor statistical showing.
You Didn’t Draft Ezekiel Elliott For This Matchup
It’s important to remember that the Buccaneers also aren’t anyone’s idea of a favorable matchup for running backs. They were the No. 1 rush defense in the NFL last year and defended the fewest amount of rush attempts. In simple terms, they’re extremely dominant when it comes to defending the run, and teams understand this.
With that in mind, you’d expect offenses to have a pass-heavy game plan against them. With one of Tampa Bay’s top cornerbacks, Sean Murphy-Bunting, leaving the game with an injury, Dallas had even more incentive to air the ball out. This would be a much greater way to explain the team’s overall lack of rush attempts, rather than something that will carry over moving forward.
Speaking of which, take a look at Ezekiel Elliott’s schedule coming up.
- Week 2: at Chargers
- Week 3 vs Eagles
- Week 4: vs Panthers
- Week 5: vs Giants
- Week 6: at Patriots
- Week 7: vs Vikings
- Week 8: vs Broncos
- Week 9: vs Falcons
- Week 10: at Chiefs
- Week 11: vs Raiders
According to Curtis Patrick of Roto Viz, Elliott has the second-most easy schedule in the NFL between Weeks 2 and 9, while that is followed by soft matchups against the Chiefs and Raiders. Additionally, with the Cowboys likely to be favored in several of those games, he’ll be in a great position to receive more carries. Week 1 might have been rough, but don’t let that prevent you from benefitting on this excellent upcoming slate.
It’s disappointing that Elliott didn’t live up to his draft status in Week 1. However, that was likely going to be the case for several running backs who have had to face the Bucs. Moving forward, Elliott benefits from one of the easiest remaining schedules and will be in position for a lot of carries.
Remember, Elliott is a true workhorse three-down back, which places him in top-five status at his position. His usage in this game actually cements his status of that more than anything else, even if the results were not there. Due to natural recency bias, we too often forget about our analysis of a player coming into the year simply based on one game. If you thought Elliott was a three-down back poised to benefit from touchdown upside playing in one of the best offenses in the NFL, then this game should not have changed your opinion of him. As Aaron Rodgers would put, it’s time to R E L A X regarding Elliot’s fantasy outlook this season.
For more help in getting your lineups set this week check out the rest of our rankings and analysis for NFL Week 2!
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