All the way through fantasy football drafts, there are tough decisions to be made when it comes to players with similar average draft positions (ADP). In this series of articles, two PFN analysts will each make the case for which of two options you should draft at different points in the draft. In this article, PFN Senior Fantasy Analyst Tommy Garrett will make the case for James Conner at his current ADP, while PFN Director of Fantasy Football will make the case for Ezekiel Elliott at his current ADP.
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Fantasy football ADP | James Conner or Ezekiel Elliott
When it comes to current ADP, James Conner and Ezekiel Elliott are going virtually back-to-back in many fantasy drafts. Elliott’s ADP sits at 32 in non-PPR as the RB16, while Conner’s ADP is currently at 33.7 as the RB17. The story is the same in PPR, with Elliott at 30.2 as the RB15 and Conner at 31.5 as the RB16.
Therefore, when faced with the choice of these two veteran RBs, which one should fantasy managers choose?
So long as he stays healthy, Conner is a legitimate three-down back for the Arizona Cardinals. The team felt more than comfortable relying on Conner. In games without Chase Edmonds, Conner averaged 16.6 carries, 5.6 targets, 96.6 total yards, 1.4 TDs, and 26.02 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. During that stretch, Conner was the RB1, RB18, RB8, RB11, RB2, and RB3, respectively.
Those are absurd numbers. Part of this is due to his 7.5% TD rate, scoring 18 times on 239 touches. Conner is absolutely a regression candidate for how often he finds the end zone but not in his volume, which I will not deny. However, this is a team that gets in the red zone as much as anyone else.
Last year, Conner was eighth in red-zone rushing attempts overall (41), and that’s with Edmonds seeing 27 red-zone touches of his own. This is where Conner wins, converting 14 of his scores from inside the 20-yard line and nine on his 17 carries from inside the five. With a stranglehold on the rushing and potential for increased targets, Conner’s 15 TDs might not seem that unrealistic despite ending 2021 with +9 xTDs.
Conner is still the lead back in a powerful offense and carries 1,200-yard and double-digit touchdown upside. Health is the only question, but that can be said for every RB, with Derrick Henry proving this last year. If Conner can see 40+ targets as well (39 in 2021), he’s poised to be a top-12 RB for fantasy in 2022.
The narrative surrounding Elliott coming out of 2021 was that of a fading force whose best years are behind him. However, Elliott finished the season with 205.06 fantasy points in non-PPR and 252.06 fantasy points in PPR. He finished sixth in terms of total points and seventh in PPR.
By his own high standards, it was slightly disappointing, just the fourth-highest points return of his six-year career. However, a below-average performance for Elliott was still better than many backs over the course of the year.
Health was a big part of the reason for Elliott’s finish in total points. He played a full season for just the second time in his career. What that does mean is that in PPR, it was Elliott’s lowest career return in terms of fantasy points per game and his second-lowest in non-PPR. The promising element is that Elliott was still a top-15 RB for non-PPR and top 20 for PPR.
While those numbers are “low” for Elliott, his numbers from 2021 are his likely floor for 2022. Therefore, his current ADP is simply the floor for a player that we’ve seen have a much higher ceiling historically.
Meanwhile, Elliott’s ceiling is helped by his consistent red-zone usage. He handled 48.6% of the Cowboys’ red-zone rushing attempts, 53.1% inside the 10-yard line, and 60% inside the 5-yard line. All of those numbers are inside the top 12 at the position last year.
The key reason why I am choosing Elliott over Conner is security. Elliott has never missed more than one game in a single season due to injury, while Conner has never missed fewer than two. Both players have similar touchdown-based upside, but Elliott has a proven floor of a top-20 RB. Meanwhile, Conner has fallen outside the top 25 at the position in two of the past four years.
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