FTN"s Adam Pfeifer puts two running backs walking close to one an additional in 2021 fantasy football draft so far under the microscopic lense to identify who makes the many sense.

You are watching: Saquon barkley vs ezekiel elliott


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(All summer, Adam Pfeifer will certainly be putting the tightest fantasy football choose under the microscopic lense in ourADP decisions series.)

For numerous fantasy draft this summer, the decision-making is yes, really going to begin at 3rd overall. Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin cook will be the consensus top 2 selections in many drafts, but after that, you deserve to legitimately do the situation for 4 or five different players.

Two of those players room Ezekiel Elliott that the Dallas Cowboys and Saquon Barkley of the brand-new York Giants. In countless ways, both elite running backs had actually lost seasons in 2020, however there is quiet no denying the enormous upside. Yet should one of two people player be on her radar through the 3rd overall selection?

And if so, who?

The situation for Ezekiel Elliott

Elliott is coming off a season whereby he finished together the RB9 in fantasy, but the campaign was viewed as a letdown through many. And also I acquire it. Zeke was the RB16 in points per game, averaging just 4.0 yards per carry. End the last few seasons, us have additionally seen Elliott’s explosive runs (runs the at the very least 15 yards) autumn off a cliff. In 2020, Elliott finished through just 5 such runs, tied for 35th among all default rushers. And among running backs with at least 50 attempts critical season, his 11.6% explosive run price was the 13th-lowest mark in the league.

Because the the lack of explosive plays, countless are wondering important how great Elliott is, while additionally questioning whether Tony Pollard deserves much more work. Pollard sported a 32% explosive operation rate, if his 3.51 yards after call per effort ranked fourth among all running backs v at the very least 40 totes. Sure, you have the right to make the case Pollard is much more explosive in ~ times than Elliott, however I tho hesitate to say the is the overall better back. And Dallas no think for this reason either, as Elliott quiet logged practically 70% that the offensive snaps. Elliott tho finished fifth in the NFL in yards trucking (440), which are the variety of yards obtained with one or an ext tacklers on optimal of the round carrier. He likewise forced a healthy and balanced 45 let go tackles on the ground, great for the seventh-most in the league. And for everything reason, numerous seem to think Elliott is advertise 30 years old because he’s been approximately for a while but he’s only going to be 26 once the season starts.


Of course, the main storyline bordering the Cowboys season was the injury come Dak Prescott, which led to the offense falling apart. Before Prescott’s injury, Elliott to be the RB2 in every one of fantasy, if his 32 receptions throughout those five weeks to be the second-most among all to run backs. During that very same span, Elliott likewise saw 14 carries from within the 5-yard line, conveniently the many in the league, and also he paced all running backs in courses run, also (172). The two highest-value touch in every one of fantasy room goal-line carries and also receptions, and also Elliott was getting both as much as basically any kind of running ago in the NFL before Prescott’s injury. Ultimately, Elliott was barely a top-24 fantasy running earlier after Prescott walk down, however he still got those valuable touches, as his 26 tote from inside the 5-yard heat tied through Dalvin chef for the many in the NFL. However, it wasn’t simply the injury to Prescott the derailed this offense. Once an elite unit, the Cowboys offensive line couldn’t stay healthy and balanced this previous season. Star handle Tyron Smith encountered a neck injury and also played simply two games, when La"el Collins missed the whole season with a hip injury. Oh, and also All-Pro safety Zack Martin let go six games as well. As a result, the Cowboys perfect 31st in the organization in yards prior to contact every attempt (1.15), a number that should soar as lengthy as they stay remotely healthy.

Between the return of their star quarterback and key offensive linemen, the Cowboys have to return come a top-five violation in 2021, which provides Elliott enormous upside for fantasy. And also the philosophy won’t readjust under attack coordinator Kellen Moore, which is very fantasy friendly. The Cowboys led the NFL in secs per snap this previous season in ~ 24.8, while your 69.6 theatre per video game were the second-most in football. Beginning 2021, the offense have to look very similar, and also we understand this team is going to put points on the board. And while Pollard is a very solid backup to run back, he isn’t taking systematic work far from Elliott, who is one of the few running backs in the organization that has the potential to see 270 carries and 50-plus receptions.

The case for Saquon Barkley

2020 to be a lost season for Barkley, who played just 67 full snaps prior to suffering a season-ending ACL tear in main 2. His lone full game to be an ugly one, as he rushed 15 time for just 6 yards, adding six catches for 60 yards. Of course, that was against the elite Steelers run defense, and at the end of the day, we need to love the 21 touches and also near-90% snap rate. When healthy, we understand Barkley is maybe the many talented running ago in the NFL yet he’s to let go a most time end the last 2 seasons. And also when he’s ready to roll, the Giants room going to attribute him. When we last totally saw Barkley in 2019, the averaged nearly 21 touches per game. And in his 13 games, Barkley was the RB4 in fantasy, while additionally ranking top-seven among all running backs in targets, receptions and receiving yards. Therefore we clearly see what the upside can be for Barkley. It simply comes under to even if it is he’s all set for mainly 1 and also if the Giants will give him a full workload appropriate out the the gate. We likewise saw the Giants really rely on the operation last year, despite lacking their all-world running back. Brand-new York post the 10th-highest rushing rate in neutral gamescripts, and also from week 6 on, they referred to as run at a top-five rate. Quick forward come 2021 in a season whereby they will (hopefully) have their upstream running ago for the entire year and also it is difficult to imagine the Giants transforming their offensive viewpoint too much, specifically with archaic Jason Garrett calling plays.


The offensive line demands to be better, too. Brand-new York ranked 22nd in run-blocking critical season, according to pro Football Focus. The course, castle were also worse in pass-protection, as Daniel Jones was under pressure on just over 40% that his dropbacks last season, one of the highest marks in football. If they continue to battle to give Jones time in the pocket, that might lead to plenty of inspect downs to Barkley, who has actually a legit ceiling the 65-70 receptions, in spite of the Giants including receivers in the offseason.

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The verdict: Ezekiel Elliott

Elliott is mine third-ranked as whole player in fantasy front of the season, which method it is pretty obvious that i am taking him over Barkley. Ns truly don’t see any question marks bordering Elliott this season. He has actually a workhorse role, plays in an elite offense, gets goal line work and also catches passes. And sure, Barkley might have the ability to check three of those 4 boxes, however I just don’t check out the Giants matching Dallas’ offense, specifically if both the attack line and Daniel Jones don’t improve. Add the fact that Barkley is coming off a torn ACL and Elliott is the much safer selection, and also security is what girlfriend are trying to find from your first selection in fantasy.