In the past few seasons, we’ve seen the San Francisco 49ers use wide receiver Deebo Samuel out of the backfield, turning him into a WR/RB hybrid. They’ve done this because Samuel is talented enough to make plays no matter how the ball is facilitated to him.
So if you can turn a WR into a threat at RB, can you turn a RB into a threat at WR?
According to a report from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, it looks like the Dallas Cowboys will be testing this theory out with Tony Pollard in 2022, a contract year for the back heading into year four.
Why are the Cowboys shifting Pollard?
There are two main reasons head coach Mike McCarthy is doing this.
First reason: This will get the ball in Pollard’s hands more. Having a log-jam of good players at one position isn’t the worst problem to have and that is the situation Dallas finds itself in with Ezekiel Elliott and Pollard.
While Zeke may not have lived up to his massive contract the past few seasons, he did partially tear his PCL in week four last year. As the season progressed, Elliott slowed down drastically. To put it in perspective, in the Cowboys final 10 games Elliott rushed for 50+ yards only three times.
But he’s seemingly back to 100% this offseason and ready to step up in 2022.
Pollard, like Samuel, has shown the ability to make plays whether he’s rushing, receiving or returning balls on special teams. He had the ninth-most all-purpose yards in the NFL last year at 1,545. Just put the ball in his hands and good things will happen.
2nd reason: There are some question marks surrounding Dallas’ wide receiver depth.
CeeDee Lamb should fill into the WR1 role nicely, no concerns there. Michael Gallup’s past performance has shown he should be a solid WR2, but a late-season ACL tear puts his availability in question to start 2022.
Then you have veteran James Washington and rookie Jalen Tolbert battling for WR3. Washington is on a one-year prove-it deal after serving as a depth piece for the Pittsburgh Steelers the past four seasons. Tolbert has been getting glowing reviews from teammates and coaches through OTAs, but who knows if things will click for him instantly in week one.
If Pollard can be impactful as a slot receiver, it will alleviate the load for Lamb and Gallup while Washington and Pollard get their footing in the Cowboys offense.
Fantasy implications for Pollard and Elliott
There are a handful of scenarios that could unfold with Pollard getting snaps in the slot.
Pollard’s value in points per reception (PPR) leagues should skyrocket. Even in standard scoring leagues, the former Memphis Tiger will serve as a solid draft selection in the middle rounds. More time with the ball in his hands will only drive Pollard’s fantasy value up.
It could mean fewer touches for Elliott, which may irk his fantasy managers on a week-by-week basis if Pollard is the go-to guy in some games. But it could also help Elliott’s durability through the season with less weight on his shoulders.