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Editor’s Note: This is an… “interesting” take.
Not so long ago, I remember sitting in the draft room of my fantasy league with the dreaded 11th pick, crossing every somewhat respectable running back off my draft board as the ESPN “random” draft order cursed my fantasy roster as if I’d disrespected Lil B.
But the NFL has changed, further shifting to a pass-happy strategy, creating point monster wide receivers amidst the insufferable “running back by committee” craze. For the first time in recent memory, a wide receiver, Antonio Brown, sits atop the ESPN draft rankings for not just PPR leagues, but standard formats. With a perpetual streak of at least 5+ catches and 50+ yards, in which Brown has averaged over 100 yards per game and nearly 19 TDs per season, the value cannot be ignored.
Except, like usual, the fantasy Gods have fucked me worse than real God fucked Helen Keller, as I sit with the dreaded 9th overall pick. My team will not feature the aforementioned Brown, Julio Jones, Adrian Peterson, OBJ, nor Todd Gurley, and my hell-like position similarly fucks me in the second round; I’ll have to wait an agonizing six picks for my second round selection. The fate of my team rests squarely in the hands of everyone but me. This fucking sucks.
So this year, in a fit of desperation and overwhelmed with the logic necessitating the move, I’m breaking all three of my cardinal 1st round rules: don’t draft a rookie, don’t take a player in his first year on a new team, and don’t reach for a running back. The man fitting all of these descriptions? Ohio State rookie, the half jersey’d Zeke Elliott.
Now, I realize it’s not like I’m saying take somebody ranked in the 40s in the first round, as most pre-season rankings have Zeke pegged as an early second-round pick. But what I am saying is this: if you don’t have a top two pick (Brown, Jones), take him.
Zeke Elliott is the best fantasy running back in the league today, in some ways by no fault of his own. Yes, Elliott is a dynamic runner, a mixture of size, speed, and elusiveness in the vain of in-his-prime Priest Holmes (if you don’t know who that is, do not wager significant funds on fantasy football), able to catch the ball out of the backfield and serve as a capable every-down back.
But what I’m even more excited about is the Dallas offense in general, in what I feel will be an NFC East championship season for Jerry Jones and Co. with perhaps the best offensive line in football, featuring three first-round picks (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin (the guy Jerry begrudgingly took over Johnny Football three years ago)), a should have been first-rounder (La’el Collins (kid was sort of suspected of murder around draft day, but later exonerated)), and seven-year starter Doug Free. Anybody can run behind that line.
And when I say anybody, I mean absolutely anybody. Remember last season with Romo out? The historically inept Brandon Weeden and Kellen Moore (Boise State forever!) were taking turns playing at a level so low gamblers like me sincerely wondered if they were point shaving — and not in favor of the Cowboys covering the spread.
Yet even as Bryant suffered through injuries as well, Darren McFadden ran for over 1000 yards while in a timeshare at running back with underwear thieves. Darren fucking McFadden. And no, this is not 2007 Arkansas; this is the NFL.
This year, with Romo supposedly pieced back together like Humpty Dumpty, a healthy and extended Bryant, the return of Jason Witten and the entire lauded offensive line, the Cowboys should have one of the league’s most balanced and explosive offenses. Elliott, who at this stage of McFadden’s career is superior in just about every way, should receive the lion’s share of carries in an offense committed to establishing the run, a rarity in today’s NFL.
In a division that Kirk Cousins won last year, the Cowboys and their reassembled offense should run through the Eagles in the midst of their post-Chip Kelly fire sale, last year’s champions by default in DC, and the first year of new Giants Coach Ben McAdoo as Eli nears the 20-interception mark again with their total dearth of running back options.
Take Zeke, even so early that the entire league goes message board warriors on you before laughing their way to 7 games of Shady McCoy, and bet the Cowboys to win just their fourth division title since 1998..
Image via YouTube