Last season was a mostly forgettable one for the Dallas Cowboys, and running back Ezekiel Elliott was one of the poster boys. He had just two 100-yard games all season, while setting a career-low 4.0 yards per carry. He also lost a career-worst five fumbles, with eight drops as a pass catcher (most among running backs)
When quarterback Dak Prescott went down with season-ending leg injury in Week 5, the Cowboys’ offense went down with him. Andy Dalton started nine games, and when he missed time Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert each started a game.
Ezekiel Elliott, Week 1-Week 5 (five games): 89 carries for 364 yards, 5 touchdowns; 24 catches for 173 yards, 1 TD
RB3 in standard and full PPR fantasy scoring
Ezekiel Elliott, Week 6-Week 17 (10 games): 155 carries for 615 yards, 1 TD; 28 catches for 165 yards, 1 TD
RB26 in standard scoring, RB24 in full PPR
An injury-thinned Cowboys’ offensive line really hurt Elliott too. That good early season stretch was buoyed by touchdowns, and opportunity volume (24.2 carries plus targets per game from Week 1-5). Both of his 100-yard games came from Week 11-16, a stretch over which he was still only RB25 in standard scoring (two games with less than 50 rushing yards). He also missed a game with a calf injury in Week 15.
Tony Pollard proved himself worthy of a more consistent role during his spot start last year. A minimum, he remains as the handcuff to Elliott for fantasy managers who are so inclined.
That Week 15 missed game was poorly timed for Elliott’s fantasy owners last year. But his down year yielded a RB11 finish in standard scoring, and a RB9 finish in full PPR (through Week 17). Heavy workloads have brought diminished juice as a runner, but he does not come off the field very often. Over the last three seasons his passing game role has been expanded, and there’s value in those lower-impact touches.
Ezekiel Elliott 2021 Fantasy Outlook
Dallas’ offensive line was ranked 27th in the league by Pro Football Focus last year. But it will only be better this year, with Zach Martin, Tyron Smith and La’el Collins back in the fold.
If he had played all 16 games, Elliott would have been a top-10 fantasy running back across the board last year. In a down year. Without his quarterback after Week 5, and with a litany of backups blocking for him. A better situation is guaranteed in 2021, as Prescott progresses through rehab and the offensive line gets its pieces back. His days as a top-5 fantasy back are likely gone, but Elliott is a bankable top-10 back and he’ll be a worthy late-first round pick in all formats.