The NFL regular season may be over, but with four more weeks of football, fantasy doesn’t have to stop just yet. Like myself, I’m sure many of you are in fantasy football playoff leagues. For playoff formats where you have to select your entire roster prior to Saturday’s kickoff, let’s analyze the fantasy value of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard for the NFL playoffs.
Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard both have fantasy value
We’ll start with the obvious — both Elliott and Pollard are fantasy-relevant. Depending on your league rules and format, you may be considering one or both of them on your roster.
Elliott averaged 14.9 PPR fantasy points per game this season, finishing as the RB15 (minimum eight games played). Pollard averaged 10.4 PPR ppg, finishing as the RB36. Throughout the season, Zeke gave fantasy managers seven RB1 weeks and four RB2 weeks. Pollard had one RB1 week and five RB2 weeks.
How should fantasy managers handle Elliott and Pollard?
When choosing a roster of players for the entirety of the playoffs, it’s important to select players on teams likely to win. As NFC East champions, the Cowboys are only guaranteed one home game. They’ll host the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card round.
The 49ers allowed the 17th-most fantasy points to running backs during the 2021 fantasy regular season. In their final game of the season, they held Sony Michel to 43 yards on 21 carries.
Fantasy managers need to look beyond just one game for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard
There are two things to consider when deciding whether to put a member of the Cowboys’ backfield on your fantasy roster: 1) How will they perform in the first round? 2) Are you likely to get multiple games out of them?
The second question is more challenging than the first. The Cowboys are a small home favorite against the 49ers. While they are technically likely to win the game, it is far from a guarantee. The 49ers have several talented playmakers and are a very live dog in Dallas.
If you’re going with players uncertain to play more than one game, you need to be confident in at least getting strong production in the event they only play one game. Unfortunately, I can’t say that about Elliott and Pollard.
Additionally, if the Cowboys do get past the 49ers, the most likely outcome is a trip to Tampa Bay, where the Cowboys will be underdogs against the team that beat them to open the 2021 season. The most probable scenario is the Cowboys play two total games. Can you get enough production from Elliott and Pollard in those two games to justify taking them? I’m not so sure.
Is Elliott still the better fantasy bet over Pollard?
In playoff formats, choosing players and setting lineups isn’t as straightforward as in the regular season. There is an argument to be made that Pollard could be a better choice than Zeke, as Pollard will be less rostered.
Most fantasy managers are going to choose Elliott if they go with a Cowboys running back. By going Pollard, if you’re right, you can gain an edge on the competition. With that said, despite Pollard clearly being the superior talent, the Cowboys are not going away from Elliott.
This backfield has been about 65% to 35% in favor of Zeke all season. Pollard’s performance has earned him more playing time than last season, but he’s still nowhere near Elliott. The goal line is also exclusively Elliott’s domain. Entering Week 18, Zeke had 42 red-zone carries against Pollard’s 17.
Elliott remains the superior fantasy option. If you are going with a Cowboys running back, I would heavily recommend Zeke. However, given how low Zeke’s weekly floor is and the Cowboys’ likelihood of playing a maximum of two games, I would advise avoiding this backfield entirely on your fantasy playoff roster.