As the preseason concludes and many fantasy leagues are beginning to draft, there is perhaps no greater question mark than Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott has been holding out for a better contract all offseason and, while reports indicate that the Cowboys are progressively offering him more and more money, there is little clarity on whether or not he will come back for week 1, or at all this season. So, should you take a chance on Zeke with your first round draft pick?
No. Frankly, there is absolutely no reason to take Elliott, regardless of your scoring format, league size, or how far he falls (realistically). Right now, Elliott’s ADP is 4th, behind Barkley, Kamara, and McCaffrey and ahead of David Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. The massive issue with this is that this is where Zeke should be taken if he was for sure going to start the season. Given the standout performance of rookie Tony Pollard this offseason, it is likely that Zeke would cede some work this season anyway, while the 3 backs being taken in front of him are set up to receive far more touches. Therefore, 4th is right where Zeke belongs if he was 100% going to play week 1.
However, this is clearly not the case. Recent reports have indicated that Elliott declined the Cowboys most recent offer that would have made him the second highest paid running back in the league. To add on to this, Jerry Jones just said that “we’ve got a marathon here,” going on to indicate that he is comfortable with the holdout for the time being, as it will keep Zeke fresh for the playoffs. It seems as if both sides are content to ride this out for the time being, which should majorly deter anyone who was thinking about using their first round selection on him.
Many fantasy owners like to draft for the playoffs, which is perhaps why Zeke is still being taken so early. The logic here is to forego production in the early weeks to get big performances when needed. This is the strategy that often leads to selections of injured or suspended players. This is a good strategy for later rounds, but it should not be implemented in the first round. In all likelihood, you will need your first round pick all season to make the playoffs. Therefore, a first round selection that could end up missing the entire season is far too risky.
Instead of Elliott, take a look at any of the other players going in the first round. All of them are relatively safe players (it would be shocking to see any of them finish with less than 1,000 yards from scrimmage) and all of them have huge upsides. A first round selection in fantasy should be a player that can be counted on every single week to give a serviceable performance. When there are so many talented players capable of doing this, there is no reason to risk potentially wasting your pick on someone who doesn’t play for a large chunk of the season, especially when that player’s upside is relatively similar to the other first rounders.