Ezekiel Elliott’s career has reached a crossroads. At 27 years old, the mileage put on Elliott’s tires throughout the first four years of his professional career have clearly caught up to him.
Many refused to believe it, but after the 2022 season it’s clear that Elliott has lost a step. Even the stubborn Dallas Cowboys at least partially admitted it. Elliott’s rush attempts hit a career low in 2022 (albeit in just 15 games). For the third straight year, Elliott’s touches decreased while running mate Tony Pollard’s touches increased. Elliott also posted a career-low 876 rushing yards and 3.8 yards per attempt.
Despite all of this, Elliott still finished as the RB19 in half-PPR fantasy football leagues, primarily because he cracked the end zone 12 times on the year. While it’s obvious Elliott’s days as a fantasy bell cow are long gone, his hefty contract along with Pollard’s free agent status could keep Zeke a Cowboy, and somewhat fantasy relevant, for one more season.
Ezekiel Elliott 2023 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rankings (RBs)
- Pro Football Focus – 97th overall, RB31
- ESPN – 89th overall, RB29
- FantasyPros ECR – 99th overall, RB34
Zeke Elliott 2023 Fantasy Football Rankings
Elliott’s fantasy football value is a complicated case right now, and the market seems to agree. Elliott is listed by FantasyPros’ Expert Consensus Rankings as the RB32 and the No. 87 player overall for 2023. So while nobody’s rushing to draft Elliott, he’s still lingering on the fantasy football radar.
Analyzing Ezekiel Elliott’s Dynasty Ranking
Elliott’s dynasty ranking is fascinating to me. He’s only a player I’d be selling in dynasty formats. Yet, there are still reasons to hold on, as indicated by all three sites ranking Elliott inside the top 100.
Elliott’s Contract Could Keep Him in Dallas in 2023
We’ve seen plenty of running backs who are out of their prime get cut by teams looking to save cap space leading into free agency. The Buccaneers just did it with Leonard Fournette as they reshuffle the decks in the post-Tom Brady era.
But while Tampa Bay only ate $5 million in dead cap by releasing Fournette, Elliott’s contract won’t be as easy to get off the books.
Dallas would take on nearly $12 million in dead cap should they cut him before June 1. A post-June 1 cut would cost only about $6 million in dead cap, but there likely won’t be any room for such a high dead cap number after Dallas adds players through free agency and the draft.
Maybe Jerry Jones isn’t even considering cutting Elliott loose because that would be an admission of failure on his end. But even if Dallas wanted to put Elliott on the chopping block, it’ll be really hard to do so.
If Elliott Sticks in Dallas, He Could be the Lead Back
What’s crazy is that there’s also a scenario where Elliott enters training camp as Dallas’ most accomplished tailback, if not the team’s lead back.
Pollard could command a pretty competitive free agency market, one Dallas likely won’t be able to match. Dallas is currently $7.2 million over the salary cap, per OverTheCap.com. They may have no other choice but to let Pollard walk.
Of course, there’s the possibility of Dallas drafting a younger, cheaper back in April. And there has already been plenty of buzz linking Dallas to Texas product Bijan Robinson. But with needs along the offensive line and on the back end of the defense, drafting Robinson early on is probably more of a luxury pick. That hasn’t stopped Jones in the past, but if logic prevails then Dallas likely won’t come away with one of the draft’s top RB prospects.
If Dallas doesn’t draft or add a significant running back in free agency, then Elliott could have an easy path to high usage. Sometimes, that’s half the battle for finding fantasy relevant RBs.
The Dallas Offense is Capable of Producing a Top 20 Fantasy Back
The Cowboys have a really good offense, one that produced two top-20 fantasy backs. The days of Elliott getting 300+ touches are most likely over, even if Pollard leaves town. And Elliott’s efficiency is definitely in decline.
But who’s to say he can’t rush for 800 yards and 10 touchdowns again? That would most likely make him an RB2 in 12-team fantasy leagues. Situation matters, and Elliott could be in an advantageous one if things play out a certain way.
What to Keep in Mind Before Drafting Elliott
Elliott could still be fantasy relevant in 2023. However, he’s not someone I’m actively pursuing in redraft or dynasty leagues. If you’re asking me whether I’d buy or sell him, I’m most definitely selling. We’ll have to see how the offseason pans out, but Elliott’s days as a fantasy star are over, even in the best-case scenario.
Depending on how the offseason shakes out, Elliott could be someone worth snagging as an RB3 or RB4. But he shouldn’t be relied upon as a weekly fixture in your starting lineup.