Should You Start Ezekiel Elliott vs. Giants? Fantasy Outlook for Cowboys Running Back

What is Ezekiel Elliott's Week 12 fantasy value, and should fantasy managers start him in the Cowboys' Thanksgiving game against the Giants?

After missing three games, Ezekiel Elliott burst back onto the fantasy football radar with a two-touchdown performance in his return. However, with the touchdowns hiding an otherwise underwhelming performance, should there be any concern about Elliott’s fantasy value for the Dallas Cowboys‘ Thanksgiving Day game against the New York Giants?

Ezekiel Elliott’s Fantasy Outlook for Week 12

The thought entering the Cowboys’ Week 11 game was that we could see Elliott play a reduced role after Tony Pollard’s impressive performances in his absence in recent weeks. However, it was Elliott who started the game for the Cowboys, seeing three rushing attempts and a target on the first four offensive snaps.

We saw the Cowboys mixing and matching their backs through the first half. Pollard led the second drive of the game, but after he was stopped twice at the goal line, the Cowboys turned to Elliott on third-and-1, which led to his first touchdown. Later on, Elliott took the only other goal-line opportunity for the Cowboys.

That mix of usage is intriguing because, while they split the carries evenly at 15 a piece, Pollard was significantly more efficient.

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Pollard averaged over five rushing yards per attempt, compared to just 2.8 yards per attempt for Elliott. Pollard also averaged more yards before and after contact per rushing attempt than Elliott, demonstrating the greater dynamism of the two backs.

The goal-line situation is definitely worth noting. While Pollard got the first shot (having helped get the team to that point), they turned to Elliott when they needed a third-down hammer after Minnesota stuffed Pollard on his two opportunities. Elliott took the only other snap near the goal line, also finding the end zone for a perfect performance in that area of the field.

That potential goal-line role for Elliott makes him an enticing option in Underdog Fantasy Best Ball leagues. We saw Jamaal Williams plunge into the end zone three times on short-yardage carries last week, demonstrating the vulnerability of the Giants’ defense close to the goal line. Elliott could be the player to take advantage of that.

Should Fantasy Managers Start Elliott in Week 12?

This week, it’s tough to judge Elliott’s fantasy value for a number of reasons. Firstly, he struggled to provide efficiency for the offense in his return from injury, while Pollard continued to appear the more explosive runner of the two.

Secondly, Elliott is coming off a knee injury that cost him three games across four weeks. He is now being asked to suit up twice in five days as he returns from that injury. Therefore, it would not be a surprise to see the Cowboys be somewhat cautious with Elliott in this game. He was a full participant at practice on Wednesday, so the concern might be unwarranted, but it is still worth noting.

The third element: Big Blue is a weird matchup for opposing RBs this year. They are coming off allowing 43.3 fantasy points to Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift. However, before that, they had only allowed more than 20 fantasy points to opposing RBs in a single game on three occasions. Two of those occurrences came back in the first three weeks, with the Giants’ defense generally more stout in recent weeks.

In the past three games, the Giants’ defense has allowed an average of 17.1 fantasy points to opposing RBs. Not too bad if this were a situation where the Cowboys had one lead back. However, the committee situation means a thin line to tread for both Elliott and Pollard to have fantasy value in this game.

The potential goal-line role for Elliott will mean there is always an intriguing upside for fantasy managers. But that also comes with plenty of risk. Without the two touchdowns last week, Elliott would have finished with just 47 total yards on 16 opportunities. That would have been an underwhelming day for fantasy managers.

With these concerns, Elliott is currently the RB32 in Tommy Garrett’s Week 12 RB fantasy rankings. That puts Elliott as a fringe 12-team option this week. However, the upside means he is a serious starting consideration in 14-team leagues and deeper.

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