Dak Prescott stayed healthy and the Cowboys led the NFL in scoring, but it didn’t feel like this offense lived up to its full potential last -season. CeeDee Lamb finishing as WR20 was a letdown, though with Amari Cooper traded, he has a significant opportunity as a third-year breakout candidate. The biggest question here might be whether Ezekiel Elliott can continue to hold on to one of the most valuable roles in Fantasy while Tony Pollard continues to outshine him.
Record: 12 – 5 (3)
PPG: 31.2 (1)
YPG: 407.0 (1)
Pass YPG: 282.4 (2)
Rush YPG: 124.6 (9)
PAPG: 38.1 (6)
RAPG: 27.8 (12)
2021 Fantasy finishes
QB: Dak Prescott QB6
RB: Ezekiel Elliott RB7, Tony Pollard RB28
WR: CeeDee Lamb WR19, Amari Cooper* WR 27, Cedrick Wilson WR48
TE: Dalton Schultz TE3
*No longer with team
Number to know: 17.6
That’s how many PPR points Ezekiel Elliott was averaging through the first four games of the season in 2021 before suffering a partially torn PCL in Week 4. And he did that despite having just seven catches in four games. That’s the second season in a row where Elliott has gotten off to a great start before an injury derailed his season – in 2020, he was averaging 21.9 PPR points per game before Dak Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury, while also dealing with hamstring and calf issues throughout the season.
Which is to say, maybe Elliott isn’t quite as washed up as the skeptics think. When he’s been healthy and flanked by a healthy Prescott, Elliott continues to be a productive Fantasy option, if not the arguable No. 1 overall player he looked like early in his career.
Of course, the counter to that is, nearly 2,000 touches into his NFL career, it may be asking too much for Elliott to stay healthy while garnering No. 1 RB touches. That’s where Pollard comes in as one of the more dynamic change-of-pace backs in the league. Ask most Fantasy players, in fact, and they’d probably tell you Pollard is just the better player at this point in their careers.
The problem is, the Cowboys don’t seem to agree. Pollard played more than 40% of the snaps just four times last season, – though it’s worth noting he was dealing with a foot injury of his own that actually kept him off the field a few games during the second half.
Nobody seems particularly excited about the prospect of drafting Elliott at this point, and I don’t think the early-season numbers are what you can expect from him for a full season. And who knows, maybe the Cowboys will actually decide this is the year to turn away from Elliott to the more explosive Pollard. However, I think the more likely outcome is Elliott remains on the larger side of the split and continues to be a solid RB2 with significant weekly upside if he manages to stay healthy.
1. (24) Tyler Smith, OL
2. (56) Sam Williams, DE
3. (88) Jalen Tolbert, WR
4. (129) Jake Ferguson, TE
5. (155) Matt Waletzko, OL
5. (167) DaRon Bland, DB
5. (176) Damone Clark, LB
5. (178) John Ridgeway, DT
6. (193) Devin Harper, LB
33 carries, 7 RB targets, 206 WR targets, 3 TE targets
Chris Towers’ projections
|QB||Dak Prescott||PA: 626, YD: 4570, TD: 31, INT: 13; RUSH — ATT: 47, YD: 163, TD: 2|
|RB||Ezekiel Elliott||CAR: 233, YD: 980, TD: 9, TAR: 63, REC: 47, YD: 330, TD: 2|
|RB||Tony Pollard||CAR: 140, YD: 658, TD: 4, TAR: 50, REC: 42, YD: 359, TD: 2|
|WR||CeeDee Lamb||TAR: 141, REC: 91, YD: 1189, TD: 8|
|WR||Michael Gallup||TAR: 83, REC: 45, YD: 591, TD: 4|
|WR||James Washington||TAR: 58, REC: 36, YD: 472, TD: 2|
|TE||Dalton Schultz||TAR: 113, REC: 82, YD: 863, TD: 5|
Can Ezekiel Elliott hold Tony Pollard off?
Elliott finished as RB7 last season, but if you asked the average Fantasy player, they’d probably say the Cowboys should just give Pollard the lead role. Pollard was a lot more effective with his touches than Elliott last season and could be a potential Fantasy superstar if something were to happen to Elliott. But if you approach this backfield with the expectation of that happening, you’re likely to be disappointed. Despite Elliott’s struggles, Pollard had double-digit carries in just three of his final 10 games, so I’m still expecting Elliott to be the clear No. 1 here.
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One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
I thought I wouldn’t be particularly interested in drafting Pollard this season, but with an ADP of 92.5 in NFC drafts as of late June, I don’t really have any problem with his price. Does he qualify as a “sleeper” when everyone knows who he is? Maybe not, but he has standalone value in PPR leagues even with Elliott healthy and active – potentially more this season if the Cowboys use him as a slot receiver – with top-five upside if anything happens to Elliott. As an eighth-round pick, Pollard actually makes a lot of sense, especially in PPR leagues where you’re chasing a zero-RB build and are looking for upside.
I think you could make a case for Lamb as a bust given how he has largely failed to live up to expectations in his first two seasons, however for the first time in his career, I’m in line with the consensus on Lamb’s value. The problem for Lamb hasn’t been that he’s been bad – on the contrary, 8.8 yards per target is quite good! However, he has just 111 and 120 targets in his two seasons so far, good for 26th and 21st among WRs. The Cowboys will continue to spread the ball around, as they have during the Kellen Moore-as-OC era, but with Cooper out of the picture and Gallup unlikely to be ready for Week 1, they’ll likely have to funnel targets to Lamb in a way they haven’t in the past. Hopefully that’ll be true in the red zone as well, because Lamb’s 4.7% touchdown rate is especially disappointing. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get a step forward from Lamb.
I’ve been pretty optimistic about Elliott throughout this writeup, mostly because, as RB20 in ADP, there just isn’t very much downside here, relative to the upside. However, as we’ve seen the past two seasons, when Elliott isn’t in a perfect situation, he’s not particularly useful. In fact, you could argue that having Elliott on your team last season was more harmful than helpful – his name value and role probably made you hesitant to sit him even though he had just five games in his final 12 with more than 14 PPR points. The value is good, but Elliott may not be worth the trouble anymore.