The 2021 NFL regular season is only a week away from the beginning. Along with that will be fantasy football drafts going on around the globe. The running back position has always been a top priority for fantasy owners as drafts slowly approach. Players such as Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, and Christian McCaffrey will be on the owners’ wish list. Their body of work on the field warrants that type of attention.
However, another running back needs to be on your radar once your fantasy draft is conducted. We are talking about Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot. The former Ohio State star is coming off one of the worst rushing performances of his professional football career. He finished the season with 979 rushing yards and only six touchdown scores.
For his standards, those statistics were considered a down year for the 2016 NFL rushing champion. Throughout last year, there were many conversations on whether Elliot had lost his edge as one of the NFL’s best tailbacks.
People need to realize that many factors came into place on why Elliot’s production fell off in 2020. His fellow teammate, QB Dak Prescott was lost for the rest of the season when he suffered a gruesome ankle injury on a scramble play against the New York Giants. Prescott’s season-ending injury was one of the critical factors why Elliot’s decline in 2020 started. Both Prescott and Elliot came into the league at the same time in 2016.
With only one season in the NFL, Prescott and Elliot established themselves as one of the league’s best quarterback/running back duos. From a fantasy viewpoint, 2020 was going to be another big season for both Prescott and Elliot. Prescott was on his way to putting up historical numbers until his season came to an abrupt end against the Giants. With Prescott out of the lineup, the Cowboys offense was not the same, and the result would be the last place finish in the NFC East.
Outside of the injury to Prescott, the ineffectiveness of the Cowboys’ once-dominant offensive line also contributed to Elliot’s decline from a productive standpoint. Injuries to key personnel such as Zach Martin, Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, and Cameron Erving pretty much sealed the fate of the Cowboys vaunted rushing attack. With the Cowboys’ offensive line depleted, defenses stacked the box and dared them to run the football with an average o-line leading the way.
As of now, all signs point to Martin, Collins, Smith, and Erving being 100 percent healthy for the upcoming 2021 campaign. Along with the return of the offensive line, Prescott will be the Cowboys quarterback under center for the foreseeable future.
Both sides agreed on a four-year, $160 million contract during the free agency, which includes a $66 million signing bonus and $126 million guaranteed. Those two factors should lead to confidence among fantasy owners on the fence selecting him.
Is Ezekiel Elliot Still a Must-Have Running Back for a Fantasy Roster?
To simply put it, yes. Elliot is still a running back that you should highly suggest picking in your upcoming fantasy draft. Let’s not forget that he’s only 25-years old. Elliot’s age is still considered the prime years for an NFL running back. He is also not a tailback that has had a history of nagging injuries. The expected decline for the position starts to begin around the early 30s.
Both Elliot and Prescott are the focal points of the Cowboys’ offense. They are both needed to sustain success when it comes to Dallas recapturing the NFC East. Based on current projections, you will likely need a top-five pick to select Elliot. If you are not picking within the top five and he falls to your selection, don’t hesitate to add him to your roster.
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Photo courtesy of USA Today.