Making the Case
Case 2:

by Hayden Gibson
5/12/2016

Taking Ezekiel Elliott as the Top Running Back

Ezekiel Elliott | RB | #21 | Dallas Cowboys

Height: 6'0"

Weight: 225

Standard Rank: 4th

PPR Rank: 3rd

2016 Projections:

Carries: 245

Rushing Yards: 1,127

Receptions: 56

Receiving Yards: 450

Total Touchdowns: 11
This might be the craziest article I ever post but if I can convince one person that taking Zeke Elliot as the top RB could be worth considering then this whole article will be worth it.  Taking a rookie RB as the top RB in fantasy is very bold especially when you still have Adrian Peterson who has be the keystone at the position for years.  You have a star in Le'Veon Bell (Strictly my opinion) and stars in the making with Todd Gurley and David Johnson.  So why would someone even consider Elliot as the top RB?  Before I give you specific reasons as to why Elliot should be in the #1 RB conversation allow me to revisit the 2015 season.

Last year Todd Gurley was one of the riskiest picks in drafts with the average price being a late 3rd early 4th round pick.  The risk was mainly injury related because the majority of people saw Gurley as a player that would be a season changer once he hit the field.  Those that paid that price to get Gurley were rewarded handsomely as he was a top 5 back from week 4 on.  In fact I remember after week 7 last season people were already calling Gurley the #1 RB for 2016 and that argument can still be made.  My point is if Gurley had come into the season healthy last season would anyone have been willing to take him as the top RB in drafts?  My guess would have to be hardly anyone would have considered him as the top RB in the league.  However, just because a player is not the top ranked at his position doesn't mean there isn't a scenario where he can finish as the top guy.  In fact I think more times than not the consensus #1 RB has failed to finish as the top RB overall so the door is always open for new face to be at the top of the RB rankings.  I think the RB position is one where you can afford to get creative stray away from the rankings due to the risk involved in drafting RBs.  I have seen plenty of questionable picks at the RB position that at the time I ask myself "what is this guy thinking?" then half way through the season that RB is leading the league in scoring and I have to spend time eating crow.  I mean honestly who would have ever thought drafting Devonte Freeman in the 8th round as your RB2 or RB3 would have been a good pick?  Back to my Todd Gurley example if we take the injury situation out of the scenario and we were 100% sold on his talent the fact that he would have been a rookie should not have kept you from putting him in the running as the top RB.  The first thing I ask myself when ranking players is am I a believer in the talent not the player, not his character, not his situation but his talent.  With talent comes opportunity and with opportunity comes production.  If a player has the exceptional talent that sets him apart from others then the opportunity will come. 

This brings me to Ezekiel Elliot the new RB for the Dallas Cowboys.  So am I a believer in the talent?  I absolutely believe in this kid's talent.  I could list his 40 time, broad jump, and all that other jazz but in my opinion that does very little to tell me how good of a football player he is.  I recently watched a few of his games from last season and the guy makes the RB position look effortless.  He has a violent running style, he isn't afraid to dish out a hit, and he has the agility to make players miss.  He is very much ahead of schedule since he is very good in pass pro which is typically what rookie RBs struggle with the most.  He also looks like a natural pass catcher as he uses his hands not his body to catch the ball.  Sounds obvious but you would be surprised how many NFL players still try pinning the ball against their body instead of catching with their hands.  Elliot will be a 3-down featured back in Dallas in my opinion and what is not to like about that?  As far as I know Dallas still has a very good offensive line in fact they made Darren McFadden fantasy relevant again and that has got to count for something.  So realistically what do I think we can expect from Elliot this year.  I think 240-1150-10 with 45-360-2 receiving is very realistic for Elliot in his rookie year.  Now if we invest in him as the top RB we will be doing so based on his ceiling and I think that could be north of 300 touches 1800 yards and 14-16 touchdowns.  There will be a lot of people that bring up McFadden and Morris and state DAL will have a committee.  My main argument with that would be why would the Cowboys draft a RB with the 4th pick overall if they felt a committee approach was necessary this year?  They had and still have a big need at DE and drafting a RB to throw into a committee instead of taking a guy like Buckner to fill a big need would make little to no sense.  They drafted Elliott because he is a special talent.  We should be excited about  the Cowboys having more clarity now instead of having to deal with a McFadden and Morris committee.  Elliot is "The Guy" while the other two will serve as handcuffs.

I think Bell, Peterson, Gurley, and Johnson are the backs firmly above Elliot in my rankings for the time being.  I think Peterson and Gurley are very similar.  They will lose a little value in PPR leagues due to their lack of involvement in the passing game.  This is not a knock on them at all I just think they have lower ceilings than Bell, Johnson, and Elliot.  Peterson and Gurley would be very fortunate to accumulate 40 receptions while Bell, Johnson, and Elliot could see north of 50.  In fact I think these three backs are the only ones that could see 300 carries and 50 catches this year.  The big argument against Bell will be his touchdowns.  He will have a ton of catches and rack up a ton of yards but he does not get in the end zone as much as you would like.  Also DeAngelo Williams looked really good last year and could have curved out a role for this year.  David Johnson was a touchdown scoring machine last year and was not the starter for the majority of the year.  Still was able to finish the year with 1000 total yards and 12 touchdowns on limited opportunities.  So Johnson has a tremendous amount of potential.  I love the Arizona offense but I still think running behind this Dallas offensive line is a better situation than being in the Arizona offense. 

Taking Elliot as the top RB will be one of the riskiest moves you can make in the draft this year but taking risk is needed if you want to win your league.  Just remember Todd Gurley was never considered a top pick at RB but half way through the season a lot of people were talking about him being the top RB in the league and the top back coming into this season.  We all know the backfield in Dallas is a very fantasy friendly situation so if you believe in Elliott's talents then don't penalize him for being a rookie.  Take a risk and draft this kid as the top RB and enjoy the ride.