Ezekiel Elliott Fantasy Outlook Following Latest Holdout Update

Dan Israeli
Divisional Round - Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams
Divisional Round - Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams / Harry How/Getty Images

With Week 1 looming, Ezekiel Elliott's contract holdout is officially in danger of spilling into the 2019 NFL regular season. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones does not believe Elliott will be back with the team for their season opener against the New York Giants.

The holdout has been a tense situation all summer, beginning when Zeke refused to show up to training camp while requesting a contract extension that would make him the highest paid running back in the NFL, hoping to exceed what Todd Gurley is paid. The Cowboys have balked at Elliott's demand, but reportedly offered him a deal that would make him the NFL's second-highest paid running back.

Zeke has been working out in Mexico in the meantime, and while Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones has said he is "very optimistic" that Elliott will return in time for Week 1, the current status of the holdout suggests otherwise.

When to Draft Ezekiel Elliott in Fantasy Football

With plenty of last-minute drafts going down on the upcoming Labor Day Weekend, fantasy football players are likely scratching their heads (or flat-out panicking) over what to do about Elliott. Waiting until the week before the season starts to draft often leaves room for a lot of cloudy situations to clarify, but this year's late drafters are going to have to speculate while they decide whether the former consensus top-four pick is worth the risk.

The top three players selected in all drafts, in any order, should be Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara — the three players at the top of the FantasyPros.com average draft position (ADP) rankings. After that is where things get tricky regarding Zeke. Those looking to play it safe could opt to draft the top WR on their board, which in most cases is DeAndre Hopkins.

For those favoring a running back in round one, the decision becomes a lot tougher. David Johnson is the RB5 according to ADP, but concern over the Cardinals' offensive line play makes Johnson a risky pick at fourth overall. After him is a very muddled group of potential RB1s, which includes James Conner, Le'Veon Bell, and Nick Chubb.

The alternative to taking Hopkins or one of the remaining RBs is drafting Elliott at the four spot, and then reaching on Cowboys rookie Tony Pollard later on. Pollard will serve as Dallas' starter for as long as Zeke is out, and is currently being taken at an ADP of RB45 (pick 122 overall).

However, with the holdout news Pollard's draft cost is climbing quickly, and he's likely to go much earlier than 122nd overall in upcoming drafts. This means Elliott drafters will likely have to consider taking the rookie well within the top 100 picks to secure the Dallas backfield on their fantasy team.

If Zeke falls in your draft and you're thinking of taking him later in the first round, you'll still be all but forced to reach for Pollard to lock up that position, or risk having a glaring hole in your roster. For drafters not interested in the headache, or in having to spend multiple picks to cover one roster spot, it would be advisable to fade Zeke in the first round of the draft entirely.

No matter where you ultimately draft Elliott, however, taking Pollard later on is essentially a must, considering the uncertainty and recent pessimism around the situation.

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