eelliot

Fellow Razzballers: Before I get into the topic at hand, allow me a brief introduction. My name is Alex Lee, long-time reader/first-time contributor, and I have emerged from the desert of my Fantasy Football writing career a weary traveler, thirsty for the love of the masses. In my college years I wrote football articles for a site called KFFL, which the older amongst you will recognize as an early fantasy resource, the younger will think is a radio station, and the youngest will have no idea what I’m talking about because you’ve never heard of the site or listened to radio. Now, after an eight-year absence, I’m back to relive the glorious days of fantasy sports writing, sleeping on piles of money and being fed grapes by your mothers in exchange for small bits of wisdom. [Answers phone call from Jay] I’m sorry, I’ve been informed that this is unpaid and I will have to feed grapes to myself. Ah, what the hell, I’ll do it anyways! And if you’re in the Philly area, you can catch me doing stand-up comedy at any place foolish enough to let me on stage…

With that out of the way, let’s get into a nice, calm discussion of – what is wrong with you idiots!? As a Cowboys fan, it pains me to say this, but why are you drafting Ezekiel Elliott in the top-10?

This is less a knock on Elliott, who I do have high hopes and expectations for, and more a philosophical stand against paying a high premium based solely on surrounding talent and projected workload rather than on any actual data on the player himself. I know what you’re thinking, “But Alex, he’s a star in the making! A first-round pick! He’s going to run behind the best line in football! The same one that made DeMarco Murray an MVP candidate two years ago and resurrected the corpse of Darren McFadden’s NFL career last year!” That may all be true, but there is a difference between a star in the making and an actual, bona fide star. If you’re using the 7th overall pick on Elliott (his current ADP), you’re mistaking the former for the latter. You know who is going off the boards in the next handful of picks? AJ Green! DeAndre Hopkins! Rob Gronkowski! Dez Bryant! You know, proven All-Pro talents that you can count on to anchor your team (assuming health, which maybe in Gronk’s case isn’t the best bet). Why gamble on a rookie running back with no track record when the sure thing is already on the board?

Let’s take a little dive into the numbers to illustrate what I’m trying to get through your thick skulls. Using last year as a reference, to crack the top 10 of non-QB fantasy scoring in standard non-PPR formats, you’d have to put up over 190 points. In the past 10 seasons, only nine backs have eclipsed that mark in their first season, with four of those players being first-round, future stars such as Adrian Peterson and Trent Richardson (whoops), and five of them being picked in the second round or later, including 2012 sixth-round pick Alfred Morris (keep that name in mind). The point here is, less than one rookie running back per year on average makes the type of impact you would want out of a top 10 fantasy pick, and more often than not, that impact comes from a surprise player who unexpectedly takes the reins rather than a pedigreed first-rounder. In the same 10-year timeframe, only 17% of first-round running backs have eclipsed the 190 point mark, while the rest have fallen short (in most cases far, far short) due to injuries, ineffectiveness, or both.

This isn’t just about the history of hit-or-miss rookie running backs, it’s also about the fact that Zeke (can I call you Zeke? I feel like we’re on that level) shares a backfield with one of the deepest positions in Dallas. Morris was brought in this offseason – what do you mean you don’t know who that is, I literally just told you to remember that name a paragraph ago – and he’s still just 27 years old with three 1,000+ yard seasons in his four years in the league. Also in the backfield is McFadden, a former first-round disappointment himself who turned in one of the best seasons of his career last year in Dallas. I know ESPN’s Todd Archer reported the team has no plans to ease Zeke’s workload out of the gate, but surely the franchise took note of what happened to DeMarco Murray the season after they ran him into the ground and let the Eagles throw $42 million at the remains. Maybe I’m giving the regime a little bit too much credit, this being the group that saw it fitting to sign Greg Hardy a year ago, but I highly doubt they will give Zeke the Murray treatment when there are plenty of other mouths to feed.

So, to recap, rookie running backs are a risky proposition historically, and Zeke has some capable teammates that the franchise would be smart to give some playing time to, even assuming that he immediately runs like an elite back. Don’t forget to factor in the hamstring injury he’s currently fighting through, admittedly minor but eating into his time getting acclimated with the new system, or the domestic violence allegations from an ex-girlfriend that are currently on the backburner of the minds of the Cowboys but have not been resolved yet. These are all risks that are not currently being priced in at such a high draft slot. The first round is not the time or place to try swinging for the fences. Sorry for the baseball analogy, I just finished reading Grey’s daily recap. Anyways, if you miss on a pick that high, your season is already on life support unless you hit every single other pick. You may want chase after the young, fun and sexy guy like a Gronk party cruise attendee, but wouldn’t you rather just have Gronk on your team instead? In standard scoring formats, I’m drafting Zeke behind Hopkins, Gronk, Green and Bryant, and in PPR leagues, I’m sliding him behind Brandon Marshall and Allen Robinson too. Are you dead set on running back? Snag Lamar Miller if you must. You know what all of these guys have in common? They’ve either eclipsed or come damn close to that 190 point threshold in their most recent full season, and there is little reason to doubt they will do it again. If you go with Zeke in the top-10 and he pans out, congratulations on paying fair value for him. If you draft him and he struggles like many rookies before him, don’t come to me in November crying about how he ruined your season unless you have some grapes to feed me.

 

 

You can follow Alex on Twitter here

  1. Pound Sand says:
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    rank these RBs:
    Charles
    Ingram
    Lacy

    • Alex Lee

      Alex Lee says:
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      @Pound Sand:
      Ingram
      Charles
      Getting Herpes
      Lacy

      Ingram over Charles slightly. If you are really into gambling I could see taking Charles ahead of him, but with that high of a pick I’d like to avoid a player who is still being treated with kid gloves by the coaching staff (he hasn’t played a preseason game yet and may not see game action before Week 1). Ingram obviously has had his own issues staying on the field but all minor stuff when compared to Charles’ major knee injury. For the non-Adrian-Peterson, mere mortals of the world, it takes a lot of time to fully recover from ACL injuries, and I wouldn’t want to bet a top 15 pick on a full bounceback from Charles. Ingram was on pace for a strong year last year (especially if you do PPR) and I expect him pick up where he left off. Lacy in my opinion isn’t in the same tier as these two. I’m hoping that last year was an aberration for him, and reports out of training camp/preseason are promising, but I definitely would not think about taking him with those two on the board.

  2. The Harrow says:
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    what you mean, they “took note” of murray, they intentionally overworked him since they knew they weren’t gonna resign him at his new price. when you literally don’t care what happens to a guy later a lot of RB’s might get 30 carries per game. this is like matheny with carmart/wacha/lynn/siegrist/rosenthal the last few years or NYM’s harvey last year in baseball.

    • The Harrow says:
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      @The Harrow: to assume i’m wrong above you’d almost have to think DAL wasn’t aware of how good their OL was. pretty sure if us out here in fantasy land can look up the metrics that showed how good it was, the teams with the hundreds of million budgets got people figuring out stuff.

      • Alex Lee

        Alex Lee says:
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        @The Harrow: I don’t disagree with your stance, they 100% overworked Murray in 2014 knowing full well that they weren’t going to bring him back the following year. My point is that after seeing Murray struggle so much in Philly, it would be foolishly short-sighted of the Cowboys to give Zeke the same burden. You shouldn’t draft a guy that high with the goal of running him into the ground immediately, the goal should be for him to have as long and productive a career as possible. If they are smart, they will monitor Zeke’s workload and use Morris/McFadden to keep him fresh.

        • The Harrow says:
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          @Alex Lee: agreed for sure, they have him on a rookie contract for a while, don’t see why they would overwork him.

  3. MB

    Unbreakable MB says:
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    Probably the most ???? Title of all time

    • Alex Lee

      Alex Lee says:
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      @Unbreakable MB: Thanks, they’ll probably all be downhill from here.

  4. Rondo says:
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    Welcom Alex! Philly area…Dallas fan….interesting.

    .5PPR – Can you rank the players in each of these groupings? The first group will be available in the first round of my keeper draft and the other in the second round.Just trying to understand how to target these guy in each round.

    Group #1:
    Charles
    Elliott
    Bell
    Allen
    McCoy

    Group#2:
    Watkins
    Maclin
    Cobb
    Hyde
    Tate
    Landry

    • PomPom says:
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      @Rondo:
      Depends on needs. I love love love Keenan Allen this year. I could easily see him with 110/1240/10. That being said, Elliot is intriguing as the Keeper here. McCoy/Charles have to much mileage for a Keeper at this spot. I would probably go Elliot in the 1st if available then Allen.

      Group#2
      Watkins has the higher ceiling out of the bunch but also comes with the greatest risk. Landry imo is the safest pick but a lower upside than Watkins.

    • Alex Lee

      Alex Lee says:
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      @Rondo: Thanks, I was hoping nobody would notice the disconnect there. It’s a long story involving growing up in the early 90’s, having two die-hard Eagles fans as older brothers, and being very, very stubborn.

      Group 1:
      Elliott
      Charles
      Allen
      Bell
      McCoy

      This is a tier of guys I think Elliott is on top of, as the rest of them all have a higher degree of injury/performance risk to consider, and I’ll take the guy who I know isn’t coming off a major injury and will play 16 games (assuming health). Allen/Bell is a toss-up where I’ll go slightly Allen, but your keeper situation could change that opinion (if you’re going into the draft with good receivers in tow, you may want to go Bell, and vice versa).

      Group #2
      Watkins
      Hyde
      Cobb
      Maclin
      Landry
      Tate

      I’m a sucker for Carlos Hyde, so take that with a grain of salt. I think last season was pretty much a worst-case scenario for him with a banged up offensive line and his own injury issues that he appears to be fully recovered from. And while he hasn’t been utilized as a pass catcher much to date, Chip Kelly has shown an affinity for throwing to his backs so far in his NFL coaching career (last season Sproles caught 55 and Murray caught 44, good for third and fourth on the team, respectively). I also like this price point for betting on a Cobb bounceback.

  5. Scott says:
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    Word.

    • Alex Lee

      Alex Lee says:
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      @Scott: Yup.

  6. CMUTimmah says:
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    “Good morning Vietnam! This is Alex Lee coming to you live on KFFL Radio in Dingdang!”

    Seriously… I used to religiously read KFFL. Confessions of a fantasy-aholic. I guess there’s no “hol” in fantasy, but there isn’t a Chocohol either (RIP Mitch Hedberg!)

    Nice write up. I agree with Elliot. He seems sooooo over drafted. Give me Gurley/David Johnson in PPR and throw in AP in Standard all day.

    • Alex Lee

      Alex Lee says:
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      @CMUTimmah: Thanks. Just listened to a couple Mitch albums last week on my commute home, still amazing. I wrote the article under the assumption that all the guys you mentioned are going before Elliott, but maybe that’s not a safe assumption since I just saw an expert mock that went Elliott over Gurley. Terrible, terrible advice, and I highly doubt said expert would make that decision if it there was actual money on the line.

      • I got $100 for groceries, $1400 for liquor and $6000 for you to bail a couple of shit puppets out of jail says:
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        @Alex Lee: nobody in their right minds takes elliot over gurley in a redraft, and i’m surprised actually that elliot did in fact have higher draft grade (due to all the AP gurley comps last year), i didn’t think that, but it helps explain why he’s going in the 1st round of all drafts.

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