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Ezekiel Elliott or Tony Pollard: Is it safe to start both Cowboys RBs in Week 13?

With conflicting reports on Zeke Elliott's injured knee, can fantasy managers start both him and Tony Pollard in Week 13 lineups?

For the better part of the last half-decade, the Cowboys’ backfield has been a one-person show. Since being drafted in 2016, Ezekiel Elliott has been the only fantasy-relevant running back. But with Elliott’s workload not what it once was, can fantasy football managers start both Elliott and Tony Pollard in Week 13 lineups?

Ezekiel Elliott remains the Cowboys’ RB1

Through 12 weeks, Elliott hasn’t missed a single game. In every single game this season, he’s led Dallas’ backfield in snaps.

The only time Pollard saw more opportunities was in the Cowboys’ 43-3 blowout of the Falcons. That was only because the starters didn’t play the fourth quarter.

Tony Pollard has been much more involved this season

Although Elliott remains the RB1, Pollard is very much a factor. In 2020, Pollard had 101 carries and 40 targets in 16 games. This season, Pollard is already at 100 carries and 31 targets in just 11 games.

Excluding his lone start in 2020, the only games where Pollard reached double-digit fantasy points last season were in the three he scored a touchdown. In 2021, Pollard has accomplished this feat three times without a score, including last week.

Elliott’s fantasy value has taken a hit due to injury

For the past several weeks, Elliott has been dealing with a bone bruise in his knee. The good news for fantasy managers is he’s been playing through it. The bad news is it’s clearly impacting his effectiveness.

You can almost pinpoint exactly when the injury started affecting Elliott. From Weeks 1-6, Zeke averaged 5.1 yards per carry and 19.5 PPR fantasy points per game. Since then, Elliott’s averaged 3.4 ypc and 14.9 ppg.

Pollard is good at football

I love Pollard. He’s just a joy to watch play. For two years now, I’ve been beating the drum that Pollard is better than Elliott. It was true entering the 2020 season and it’s true now.

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Pick a metric. Any metric. Pollard is better. Yards per touch? 6.1-4.8 Pollard. Broken/forced missed tackles? 39%-31% Pollard. Yards created per touch? 3.26-2.65 Pollard. Elliott may have more power, but Pollard is far more explosive. There’s really nothing Elliott does better than Pollard.

Can fantasy managers start both Elliott and Pollard?

On the season, Pollard is averaging 10.3 ppg, which amounts to a low-end RB3. Pollard has been startable all season. Elliott’s presence obviously caps his ceiling, but Pollard’s ability to make explosive plays and his increased usage keep him fantasy-relevant even on the wrong side of a timeshare.

Earlier this week, there were reports the Cowboys planned to rest Zeke for a couple of games to get him fully healthy for the stretch run and playoffs. Subsequently, on Tuesday, Jerry Jones said he expects Zeke to have a “full load” on Thursday Night Football. Elliott practiced in full all week. Clearly, there are no plans to rest him at this time.

With that being said, Elliott was obviously hampered by his knee on Thanksgiving. He carried the ball just 9 times and was absent for large chunks of the game. His snap share continues to not be what it was early in the season. Prior to Week 9, Elliott never fell below a 70% snap share. Since Week 9, Elliott hasn’t hit a 70% snap share.

I expect Pollard to continue seeing 10-12 touches a game, keeping him viable for a flex position. The Saints allow the fewest fantasy points to running backs but the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. They’re a classic pass-funnel defense.

Pollard has been far more efficient as a pass catcher than Elliott, averaging 8.8 yards per reception compared to 6.0 from Zeke.

Look for Zeke to be inefficient on the ground but possibly rack up receptions or punch in a short touchdown as he did against the Raiders on Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, Pollard should be more effective and more efficient on his touches. Both backs are worth starting.

Jason Katz is a Fantasy Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter: @jasonkatz13 and find more of his work here. Don’t forget to listen to the PFN Fantasy Football podcast and check out our free fantasy newsletter.

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