News broke this week that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was prepared to sit out the 2019 season if a long term deal was not reached before week 1. The story took on a life of its own as fantasy owners instantly flashed back to Le’Veon Bell the year before. Nobody wants to waste a first round draft pick, so is it worth it to draft Elliott with a top 5 pick.
In short, absolutely.
There is a 0% chance Elliott does not have a long term deal in place by the time the season starts. His situation is so monumentally different than Bell’s (or even other current holdout Melvin Gordon)
First of all, Elliott is still under contract for next year as well, meaning there is less risk involved in playing this year. With two more seasons under Cowboys control and another under the franchise tag, it would be three years before he could suit up for another team. By then, he is a long forgotten footnote. Holding out this season also doesn’t make much sense for Zeke. Should he be injured, he is extremely likely to be healthy and playing at an elite level by free agency in 2021. His long term financial value is relatively safe, so why risk losing the $260,000 a week he would be fined for holding out.
Second, he is very close to Cowboy’s owner/GM Jerry Jones. Jones has been known to treat his favorites very well during his time as an executive (see Jason Garrett) and will have no issues taking care of homegrown talent. Jones has stated Elliot’s future deal will need to allow the Cowboys to retain QB Dak Prescott and WR Amari Cooper, but Elliot is a homegrown runner and a fan favorite. Even if the analysts (nerds) continue to say an elite running back isn’t worth paying, this is the Jerry’s team and he takes care of his guys. In fact, there is already a deal on the table to make Elliott the second highest paid back in the game.
Expect this situation to be resolved around the third preseason game, but if you’re drafting your fantasy team before then, rest easy drafting Zeke.
Photo: The Spun