One could say that the explosive emergence of Ezekiel Elliot stands as one of the key factors that sprung the rookie running back revival into full force. Elliot walked into the ideal situation that supported one of the best rushing offensive lines in the NFL, a young quarterback that relied on the running game, and a new commitment to a ground and pound rushing attack.
2017 Numbers (10 game total)
Name: Ezekiel Elliot
Rushing Attempts: 242
Rushing Yards: 983
Rushing TDs: 7
Receiving Yards: 269
Receiving TDs: 2
Total (.5 PPR): 190 (RB10)
That perfect situation has not changed. Elliot still remains the undisputed lead back in a run-first offense with mediocre talent at the receiver position. Are those factors enough to warrant Elliot being the number 1 ranked RB on my board? It's debatable, but the key factor that does propel him to that spot lies in one word: safety.
Take a look at all the other top RBs that are making an argument for that number 1 spot, and you'll see that all have them have some sort of major factor that should give owners pause.
Leveon Bell looks to hold out through training camp and preseason for a new deal. While that same holdout tactic didn't affect him negatively last year, history has shown repeatedly that RBs that choose to hold out tend to have a higher injury risk, which has always been a concern for Bell.
Todd Gurley may have emerged as the top RB last year, but he's going to experience some sort regression. It's just too difficult to repeat a monster season like the one he had. That's why no RB in at least the last ten seasons has managed to repeat as the top RB in fantasy for two years running. Someone always takes his spot the following year. While his regression won't cause him to be unworthy of a top 5 pick, what's the point of selecting him no. 1 overall when he has the such a low chance to repeat as the top back?
David Johnson is dealing with an entire different offensive system with new head coach Steve Wilks in place. Wilks is primarily a defensive minded head coach, so its not guaranteed that he will keep the same Bruce Arians system that featured Johnson as the offense's primary component. Along with that, the retirement of Carson Palmer means that the offense will undergo further changes with either Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen under center this year.
Elliot on the other hand doesn't possess the injury risk of Bell; he's coming off a poor year, so its nothing but upside as opposed to Gurley, and his team is in the relatively a similar position as when he had amazing rookie campaign.
Out of all of the options for the top four RBs, Elliot stands as the hands down safest RB on the board. The departure of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten will only further increase his importance in the passing game as well.
Even when dealing with his suspension for the majority of the year, Elliot still finished as the RB10 in half point PPR formats, and out of his ten games played he only had one game where he had less than 90 scrimmage yards.
Overall, the situation for Elliot remains the most stable out of the other premier backs, and that safety and high upside is what propels him to the top of my board.
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