The Ezekiel Elliott dilemma is tough when you have a pick after No. 3 overall. With his contract holdout still going on as we head into Labor Day weekend, it's risky to trust him as a first-round pick. Or it could be the move that wins your league.
I had the No. 5 overall selection in our pick-by-pick series with me, Dave Richard, Heath Cummings and Ben Gretch. We each built three of the 12 teams in this 15-round PPR mock draft to show you a different strategy from each spot.
Here's my team from No. 5 overall:
- 1.5 Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
- 2.8 Kerryon Johnson, RB, Lions
- 3.5 Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots
- 4.8 Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions
- 5.5 O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers
- 6.8 Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers
- 7.5 Sammy Watkins, WR, Chiefs
- 8.8 Darwin Thompson, RB, Chiefs
- 9.5 Donte Moncrief, WR, Steelers
- 10.8 Jaylen Samuels, RB, Steelers
- 11.5 Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens
- 12.8 C.J. Anderson, RB, Lions
- 13.5 T.J. Hockenson, TE, Lions
- 14.8 Hunter Renfrow, WR, Raiders
- 15.5 Jaron Brown, WR, Seahawks
I'm still confident a deal will get done between Elliott and the Cowboys, and I don't expect him to miss much time, if at all, in the regular season. But it comes down to your willingness to take a chance and gamble on Elliott early in Round 1. It could be a mistake to pass on the high-end receivers like Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones or JuJu Smith-Schuster, especially in a three-receiver league. But if Elliott plays most of the year and does what he's capable of doing then you have a much better chance to win your league.
To cover myself in case Elliott is out, I drafted Ekeler in Round 6, as Ekeler should see a significant workload if Melvin Gordon misses games because of his contract situation. I wish I would have drafted Tony Pollard as a handcuff for Elliott, but he went before I had the chance to select him in Round 9.
Thompson might be my favorite player to draft this season, and Round 8 is when I try to get him in any format. Now, this probably should have been the spot where I drafted Pollard as the Elliott manager, but I'd rather have Thompson. He's going to play behind Damien Williams to open the season, but if he ever gets the chance to start for the Chiefs or get an extended workload then he could be a league winner. Thompson is someone to covet on Draft Day.
Now, Elliott is the player who belongs in this category, but we've talked enough about him already. The reason I put Johnson here is I could have taken another running back instead with Dalvin Cook or Leonard Fournette, a receiver in Keenan Allen or a tight end in Zach Ertz in this spot. Allen in particuliar could have made more sense given the three-receiver format, but I love Johnson's upside in 2019. He's a breakout candidate, and he's someone you should target in Round 2 in all leagues.
If Gordon misses at least half the season because of his contract then I'm confident Ekeler will be a breakout candidate. But even if Gordon shows up for Week 1, I still expect Ekeler to have plenty of Fantasy value. He'll be more of a flex than a weekly starter in tandem with Gordon, and he's worth drafting in Round 6. Given my situation with Elliott, I need Ekeler to be the starter for the Chargers in Week 1. That would cover me as an Elliott replacement.