Fantasy 5: Why Ezekiel Elliott has top-5 fantasy RB potential

A virtually guaranteed carry load has the Dallas draftee in good position. Plus, notes on WR Chris Hogan and RB C.J. Prosise from Jeff Ratcliffe.

| 5 months ago
(Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)

(Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)

Fantasy 5: Why Ezekiel Elliott has top-5 fantasy RB potential


Every weekday, the Fantasy 5 will take a look at the five most important NFL news stories for fantasy football players, giving you the advice you need to improve your team.

The Fourth of July is always a special holiday for me. Not only is it a day where we celebrate our country’s independence, but it’s also the unofficial kickoff to the fantasy football season. Folks wake up from that six-month slumber that began shortly after the Super Bowl and really start to dive into fantasy draft prep. And then we get two whole months of rankings and draft strategy talk.

While we sit teetering on the rim of fantasy draft season, the NFL is in its dark period. But the beauty to the league is there really isn’t an offseason. Even on a slow news day there’s still plenty to talk about. Here are four items that stuck out to me along with one piece of advice as your start draft prepping.

1. Why Ezekiel Elliott has top-5 fantasy RB potential

We’re all in on Dallas’ No. 4 overall pick Elliott here at PFF, and currently have him ranked as a consensus top-5 fantasy running back. The former Ohio State star landed in arguably the best spot of any player drafted back in April. Discussing Elliott’s 2016 outlook, DallasCowboys.com’s David Helman projects him to see 18-20 carries per game, which would put Elliott in the 280-plus range.

And that’s just carries. We also expect Elliott to be heavily involved in the passing game, especially with Darren McFadden dealing with a broken elbow that he sustained slipping on wet concrete near a swimming pool. Even with McFadden in the mix, Elliott should see the lions’ share of work in the passing game.

Last season, Adrian Peterson led all running backs in carries (327) and touches (357). Peterson was the only running back to top the 300-carry plateau and was one of just four to go over 300 touches. The other three were Devonta Freeman, Doug Martin and Latavius Murray. Peterson, Freeman and Martin finished 1-2-3 in fantasy scoring, and Murray was 10th. If Elliott gets the volume he’s projected to see, we might as well ink him in as a top-5 fantasy running back.

[Try our new fantasy draft tool and see how your roster might shake out if you take Elliott early.]

2. Slow down the C.J. Prosise hype train?

With the luster of Seattle running back Thomas Rawls fading with each passing day, Prosise has been one of the biggest ADP movers in the month of June. He actually just went in the eighth round of our most recent PPR mock draft, which was just four rounds behind Rawls. However, we might want to throw a little water on this fire because Prosise missed most of Seahawks’ OTAs with a hip flexor injury.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m one of the biggest Prosise truthers out there. But the old saying is you can’t make an impact in the trainer’s room. We still have plenty of time until training camp, but this is certainly a situation to keep an eye on, especially with Rawls still without a timetable for return. A name that’s going overlooked in the Seattle backfield is fifth-rounder Alex Collins. He’s a physical Chris Ivory-type who topped 1,000 yards in each of his three collegiate years at Arkansas, despite sharing carries with Jonathan Williams in 2013 and 2014. Collins is expected to compete for carries and could be the dark horse in this running back stable.

3. Danny Amendola is on the mend – what does that mean for Chris Hogan’s fantasy value?

Hogan garnered much of the attention in Patriots offseason activities, but this was due more to the fact that fellow wide receivers Amendola and Julian Edelman were on the shelf than his ability to always be open. However, Amendola told ESPN’s Wendi Nix that he feels “really good” after having a “couple minor procedures” in the offseason. Those minor procedures were to address knee and ankle injuries that plagued Amendola last season.

While the report is positive, Amendola still looks very unlikely to be on the field when camp opens in about a month, and could miss most, if not all, of the preseason. That means we’re likely to get a healthy look at Hogan, who has become a bit of a late-round darling in fantasy circles. As of today, Hogan’s ADP has crept up into the early 14th round as the 61st wide receiver off the board. Though he’s not a dynamic athlete, Hogan has good size (6’1, 220) and the ability to work the short and intermediate areas of the field. That skillset meshes well with what the Patriots do offensively. New England has made fantasy assets out of marginal talents in the past (see: LaFell, Brandon). Hogan could be the next man up.

4. Is Cordarelle Patterson finally starting to get it?

In an interview with the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, Patterson revealed that he’s been lazy thus far in his professional career and vows to work harder. Of course, talk is cheap, and Patterson hasn’t done much to improve in his three seasons in the NFL. Over that span, we’ve seen him go from a first-round pick oozing with upside and athleticism to an afterthought special-teamer on a team with paper-thin wide receiver depth chart.

While there are some (possibly yours truly) who may still be holding on to Patterson in deep dynasty leagues, the odds of him turning the page and emerging as a viable fantasy receiver look pretty slim. With the Vikings drafting Laquon Treadwell and the emergence of Stefon Diggs last season, Patterson is a long shot to make an impact this season. If you haven’t already, it’s time to cut bait on him in dynasty leagues.

5. Things that don’t matter for fantasy purposes: Tight end blocking.

With so much fantasy analysis floating around the interwebs, I’ve noticed there are some things we pay attention to that simply aren’t worth our time. Case in point: tight end blocking. The argument goes something like “Player A is a good blocker, so he’s going to stay on the field.” And yes, that’s true. He’s going to stay on the field for running plays, which won’t do anything for his fantasy production. Furthermore, if this player is such a good blocker, there’s a chance he’ll be blocking instead of running routes in passing situations. That’s not good.

Quite simply, there’s no correlation between blocking ability and fantasy production. Sure, Rob Gronkowski is a darn good blocker, but the worst blocking tight end last season was Greg Olsen. He finished fourth in fantasy scoring among tight ends. Gary Barnidge was fantasy’s No. 3 tight end, and he graded out as the fourth-worst blocker. Ultimately, we don’t want our fantasy tight end to be a good blocker. We want him to be a good catcher of the football. When it comes to fantasy evaluation, don’t waste your time on things that don’t matter.

| Director of Fantasy

Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is one of the most accurate rankers in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

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