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You can get Ezekiel Elliott at a discount these days, as he stares at a six-game suspension to open the season.
He went for $21 in our recent auction draft, dropped to 21st in a .5-PPR mock last week, and even went as late as No. 24 overall in a recent (IDP) mock. For someone who was a contender for No. 1 overall at the start of draft season, that's quite a fall.
But it isn't too far. Dave Richard and Jamey Eisenberg have Elliott at No. 20 overall in standard, while Heath Cummings has him all the way down at 27th, so there isn't much disagreement here. Maybe they're right; they are the experts, after all.
But I'm here to offer a contrarian opinion. My co-workers obviously don't agree -- Dave wrote the definitive case for taking Elliott here -- but I'm here to provide some sage advice they won't. Are you ready? Here it is:
Don't draft Ezekiel Elliott.
I won't be taking Elliott in the second round, and I won't be taking him in the third round. I think he represents a league-losing value at that spot in the draft.
Let's look at a few of the arguments in favor of taking Elliott that high, and poke holes in them:
Argument 1: "LOOK HOW VALUABLE LE'VEON BELL WAS LAST SEASON!"
Elliott is such a singular talent, you don't want to be the person who misses out on a league-winner. Le'Veon Bell missed the first three games of last season with a suspension of his own, and still managed to rack up 1,268 rushing yards and 616 receiving yards in just 12 games. You missed Bell for those first three games, but he more than made up for lost time, eventually finishing as the No. 5 back in standard scoring leagues.
Bell ended up returning elite value, without even accounting for the replacement level player you started in his place. If Elliott can do that, he'll make you look like a genius.
But that's a big ask. Bell was outstanding last season, to a level we've never seen from him before. Compare his per-game production from 2016 to his previous seasons:
2016: 20.2 Fantasy Points Per Game (Standard)
2015: 14.6 FPPG
2014: 17.9 FPPG
Bell has been one of the best players in Fantasy since entering the league, but what he did in 2016 represented a pretty significant outlier.
If Bell hadn't had a career-year, it's pretty likely you would have regretted taking him.
Argument 2: "ELLIOTT WAS ALREADY AS GOOD AS BELL LAST SEASON!"
Now, Elliott was nearly as good as Bell in 2016, averaging 19.7 Fantasy points per game of his own. If he manages a repeat of that, Elliott is going to be a stud who can carry you every week.
Should we expect a repeat of that performance? That's a pretty heavy ask; Elliott racked up 377 touches in 2016, a massive workload that already puts him at a heightened risk of injury. He also averaged a healthy 5.1 yards per carry, and despite running behind the best line in football, it's tough to sustain that kind of efficiency year over year. To wit, no player has topped 300 carries with an average over 5.0 yards in consecutive seasons over the last 20 seasons. None.
A rushing average of 5.0-plus yards is rare, even for great backs. The great Adrian Peterson managed it just twice in his first 10 seasons, six years apart. LaDanian Tomlinson never had two seasons in a row over 5.0 YPC either; Barry Sanders did manage the trick twice, but he might be the best running back ever.
Elliott would also be trying to become the first running back since Tomlinson in 2006-2007 to top 15 rushing touchdowns in consecutive seasons, so some natural regression was already likely in store for Elliott.
If he played 10 games this season at least year's pace, he would have finished as the No. 10 back, essentially tied with Mark Ingram. Ingram is usually the ninth or 10th running back off the board. You're already paying full price for the best-case scenario, without taking into account any potential downside.
That's the biggest mistake you can make in Fantasy sports, because even the "safest" players have downside, whether it's through injury or underperformance.
Argument 3: "YOU CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT HIM!"
Please stop shouting at me!
Just taking a 10-game pace doesn't quite cover things. The Fantasy season doesn't cover the full 17 weeks, obviously; few leagues schedule their championship for Week 17, and even fewer leagues run by smart people do it. Of course, the real Fantasy season isn't 16 weeks either.
If you play in a two-round playoff, you have 14 weeks to get into the playoffs. If you add a round – and don't stretch to Week 17 to make up for it – you only get 13 weeks to make the playoffs. If you don't, you don't get 16 weeks. It's as simple as that.
In that context, a six-game suspension looks even more devastating. Add in the bye, and you get Elliott for either six or seven games as you fight for a playoff spot, after spending the first half of the season without your No. 2 pick. Elliott will be better than Todd Gurley, Leonard Fournett, Lamar Miller or Isaiah Crowell on a per-game basis, but will he be that much better?
Your season might just be over by the time Elliott comes to your rescue. A life boat doesn't do much good if the boat's already sitting on the bottom of the ocean.
Argument 4: "The suspension may be reduced!"
Thank you for lowering your voice.
This is clearly the best argument in favor of drafting Elliott where he is currently going. It's pretty much impossible for him to be worth a second-round pick if he misses half of the Fantasy regular season, but it's a lot easier for him to justify that cost if he only ends up missing three or four games.
Still, at this point, with his appeal set for Aug. 29 (and no timetable for a decision after that), it isn't a particularly compelling argument. Sure, Elliott may win his appeal and get that suspension reduced, in which case he looks a lot more appealing.
But, like I said earlier, buying that in the second round amounts to paying full price for the best-case scenario. We know running backs are more injury prone than other players, and running backs coming off nearly 400 touches are especially risky. Elliott could be one two-game absence from an ankle sprain from torpedoing your season, regardless of if he wins his appeal.
Winning in Fantasy football requires some good luck, but paying a second-round pick for Elliott amounts to betting on good luck. It's not smart. Don't do it.