Elliott will be one of the more polarizing running backs of the season. On one hand, he finished last year as the No. 7 running back in Fantasy, has never finished outside of the top 12, and has never missed more than two games in a season due to injury. On the other hand, Elliott looked miserable down the stretch, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and 3.7 yards per target over his final nine games. Tony Pollard certainly looked like the better back, but it's also true that Elliott played most of the second half with a torn PCL. The safest approach is to not draft Elliott before Round 4 and hope he bounces back. In Dynasty leagues, Elliott is terrifying because he's one injury away from having almost no value. If you aren't truly contending in 2022, Elliott should not be on your Dynasty roster.
Tony Pollard took some work away from Elliott in 2021 and was the more efficient runner. But he remained well behind the veteran in role, and it sure doesn’t sound like the Cowboys are interested in altering that setup. It’s possible, even, that leaving the knee injury behind shifts some of that work back to Elliott. We’re not betting on a rebound in efficiency for the aging back, but volume is king for fantasy RBs. An injured Elliott ranked 7th in the league in carries last year, 11th in opportunities per game (carries + targets) and 7th in total PPR points. An ADP that puts him toward the bottom of RB2 territory makes Elliott a fine draft value – and perhaps even a strong one if a healthy right knee does give him an efficiency boost.
Elliott returns as the lead back in Dallas after a solid but unspectacular showing in 2021. Elliott finished seventh among RBs in fantasy points, but the result reeks of survivor bias. Elliott had one weekly finish better than eighth (Week 3) and finished outside the top-20 backs in six of the final 11 weeks. Elliott averaged a career-low 13.9 carries per game, but still finished top 10 among backs in carries, rushing yards, rushing TDs, carries inside the 5, routes, targets and receptions. Elliott has finished all six NFL seasons as a top-12 fantasy back, but he's been outside the top 15 in PPG each of the last two seasons. Now 27 years old and extremely overworked (1,938 career touches), Elliott should be viewed as a mid-to-back-end RB2.
Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me. Ezekiel Elliott fooled many last year, coming off a career-worst season. But hopes for a bounce-back proved ill-conceived as his productivity took another downtick. Elliott averaged just 13.9 rushes per game, continuing a five-season decline from leading the league at 24.2 carries per game in 2017. Although his yards per rush (4.2) improved from 2021 (4.0), it's still indicative of a league-average producer and far below his career-best mark (5.1). Elliott's declining productivity extended to the passing game, too. He set career lows in yards per catch (6.1), receiving yards per game (16.9), and catch rate (72.3%). Fortunately, the Cowboys still gave him the lion's share of goal-line opportunities, leading to his third double-digit touchdown (12) season. But context is key, and we now know he played last season with a partially torn PCL. That keeps the door open on a bounce back season in 2022. Regardless of whether he's lost a step, team owner Jerry Jones continues to push for Elliott as the centerpiece of the offense. Coaches rarely go against the team owner's explicit desires.