By Steven Pintado
Last season, Ezekiel Elliot did was he does best. He ate it up on the ground game. He finished last year as the fifth running back in fantasy, and now he is being potentially considered as the first overall pick in many of your 2019 fantasy drafts. Going into his forth season, Elliot is looking to take the next step in his game and be the number one running back in fantasy football.
Elliot entered the league in 2016 from Ohio State and has dominated ever since. During his rookie year, he finished as the second running back in fantasy rushing for over 1600 yards and 15 touchdowns. He averaged 21.82 fantasy points per game, which he was ranked second among running backs.
Going into his sophomore year, he finished as the ninth running back even after being suspended for the final 6 games of the season. One great thing about that season is he managed to finish in the top three in points per game with 20.3.
Back to last season, His fantasy finish of fifth among running backs was a bit misleading. During the first 8 games, Elliot and the Cowboys struggled mostly do to the lack of creativity on offense and injuries to the offensive line. He had averaged 16.3 fantasy points per game, which was under his usual production. After a mid season trade for Amir Cooper, everything changed and Elliot found a spark in himself and dominated the final 7 games, as he went on to average 22.1 points per game. He still ended the season averaging 19.4 fantasy points, which anyone would take from their number one running back.
The Cooper trade seriously improved Elliot’s fantasy average over the season. The new look offense brought out a side of Elliot we haven’t seen in his career. He became a pass-catching back, and he ended the season with 77 receptions; 48 of them coming post Cooper trade. In his first two seasons, Elliot averaged 2.32 receptions per game, which for a running back one is low. Prior to the Cooper trade, he averaged 3.5 receptions, which was an improvement from his prior years. Once the Cooper trade went down he was averaging 6.5 receptions per game, which places him up there with the elite pass-catching running backs.
Another reason that Elliot should be first in your drafts is he will have his starting offensive line healthy for the new season. Travis Frederick was out for the 2018 season with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Both Tyron Smith and Zack Martin missed games last year and were limited in snap-counts due to injuries. The Cowboys also drafted offensive-lineman Connor Williams in this year’s draft; who is most likely to play inside at guard.
One individual stands in Elliot’s way from being first overall and his name is Saquon Barkley. I understand the reason; Barkley is nasty and had an unbelievable rookie season. Let me tell you why Barkley shouldn’t be number one in your eyes. First off, the Giant’s offensive line is a bottom half-line ranked unit in the league and even for the great running backs, that’s still a challenge to overcome. This also could affect his touchdowns as he scored 15 last seasons and that is just screaming for regression.
Instead of adding talent to this this team, the Giants went in an opposite direction by trading away their only other star player in Odell Beckham Jr. Leaving this team with a core of Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate. This won’t make Barkley’s job any easier and it could actually hurt him because those two could easily take targets away from Barkley as they are underneath slot players, who Eli Manning can quickly get them the ball.
Barkley’s targets were above league average as he received 122 targets and I expect that number to drop as the two slot players in Shepard and Tate should take up many of those targets this season. Lets not forgot the breakout player of the team this season, Evan Engram, as he should see an increase as well, after just 64 targets last season.
Elliot and Barkley are both dominate running backs in this league and both are considered for the top pick but take the safe route and go with Elliot and his high owner offense. His consistent is like no other and you’ll be happy you drafted Elliot with the top pick leading you to a championship.