Fantasy 5: Should we expect more from Ezekiel Elliott in the passing game?
(The Fantasy 5 is a quick-hit wrap-up of some of the biggest news topics of the day for fantasy football players, giving you advice you need to improve your team.)
So close. Yet so far away. The last of the NFL minicamps broke yesterday, which means we have a long cold winter to endure over the next month and a half. Yes, I realize that it’s summertime in the Northern Hemisphere. But for the next roughly six weeks, nothing will be going on in the NFL. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The good news is this time period is also the ramp up to fantasy draft season. So we have that going for us, which is nice. With that, we have your F5 for the day.
1. More work for Ezekiel Elliott in the passing game?
So says Dallas Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown, who responded “absolutely” when asked whether Elliott would be used more in the passing game this season. While many expected Elliott to see heavy usage as a receiver in his rookie year, he saw just 37 targets and caught 32 balls. That the same number of targets as Devontae Booker and Shaun Draughn.
But Elliott obviously didn’t need much work in the passing game to be a strong fantasy asset. He finished the year second among running backs in fantasy scoring in both standard and PPR formats thanks to a whopping 352 touches. That sort of workload suggests a dramatic increase in targets isn’t likely, but a slight uptick could have Elliott vying for the top spot among running backs. Elliott is locked in as a top-3 fantasy pick in all formats.
2. Kevin White progressing
Finally, some good news in the seemingly never-ending injury saga for White. Word from the Chicago beat suggest he’s looked explosive at Bears mini-camp and is back to full speed. Of course, this is still just June practice, but it’s a positive sign for the former first rounder who spent his winter rehabbing and changing his running technique.
White entered the NFL raw from a football standpoint, but oozing with athletic upside. He’s yet to fully materialize, though, due to the injuries that have plagued his playing career. That being said, he did see 34 targets over the first four games last season. Only 14 receivers saw more over that span. At this point, White remains a risky upside pick in the middle to late rounds of fantasy drafts.
3. The Carlos Hyde hate has gone too far
Since the NFL draft, there’s been much speculation on the San Francisco 49ers backfield. Some have suggested that Hyde is on the outs, which has led to further speculation that rookie Joe Williams could leapfrog Hyde on the San Francisco depth chart. Let’s pump the brakes a little on this narrative. Hyde has been running with the ones throughout offseason practices and appears to be fairly well positioned to open the season as the workhorse back.
Injuries have been the biggest concern with Hyde through his first three professional seasons with 14 games missed over that span. However, he’s coming off a strong 2016 campaign despite having to play in that debacle of an offense under Chip Kelly. Hyde averaged 4.6 yards per carry and posted an impressive 3.05 yards after contact per attempt. While the 49ers aren’t a good bet to dramatically improve this season, Hyde can certainly return positive value on his current ADP in the late-third round provided he stays healthy.
4. Paxton Lynch getting some buzz
The Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla suggests “hints are everywhere” that Lynch will be under center for the Denver Broncos in Week 1. This contradicts other reports from the Denver beat that have Trevor Siemian in the lead for the starting job.
At this point, both sides are speculating. We won’t really have an answer until training camp opens up. But for fantasy purposes, Lynch would be the much more ideal option. He wouldn’t be a viable fantasy option outside of 2QB leagues, but his presence would help boost upside for both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and may even give some value to the tight end position where A.J. Derby is a fantasy darkhorse. Stay tuned.
5. Christine Michael placed on injured reserve
And just like that. As mysteriously as he arrived, he was gone. Michael lasted just two weeks with the Indianapolis Colts before going down with an injury at minicamp. Indy will enter the season with Frank Gore cemented as their lead back. Robert Turbin and rookie Marlon Mack will fill out the rest of the depth chart. Fantasy drafters would be wise to pass on Gore, as the veteran lacks upside at this advanced stage of his career. While Mack shouldn’t be drafted in most leagues, he is a player to keep an eye on as the season progresses.