Proceed with Caution with Ezekiel Elliott in 2023 (Fantasy Football)
With Ezekiel Elliott’s recent move to the Patriots, questions have arisen about his fantasy relevancy for the 2023 season. In this article, I will be delving into his potential as a RB in New England, and outlining why it might be best to proceed with caution with Elliott.
Inefficiency as a Runner
One of the glaring red flags for Ezekiel Elliott’s fantasy potential is his efficiency as a runner. Last season, he posted a stagnant 0.0 SAM. SAM stands for Situational Adjusted Metric: it tells us how many fantasy points above expected a player scores per 50 touches, highlighting his struggle to move the chains and gain yardage consistently. In a crowded backfield with a demanding coach, an underperforming RB will quickly become irrelevant in the Patriots offense. In addition, Elliott has built his fantasy reputation on being a high-volume, workhorse back for the Cowboys. Thus, his style of play leans towards a steady accumulation of yards rather than explosive, flashy runs that often lead to significant fantasy points. He surely will not see the same 55.9% rush share as he did in Dallas, giving him fewer opportunities to break out and rack up fantasy points. Rhamondre Stevenson is slated to be the Pats RB1 and directed 59.3% of runs last season; New England’s RB2 Damien Harris only managed to grab 38% of carries behind Stevenson, which gives us an idea of the workload Elliott can expect. As anticipated, his fantasy upside (upside rating between -1 and 1) sits at an abysmal -0.55, highlighting the low possibility of Zeke returning to his peak fantasy days.
While it’s true that touchdowns are a significant source of fantasy points for running backs, relying heavily on this aspect can be risky. Last season, Elliott found the endzone 12 times, which was tied for the second-most TDs in a season during his career. However, this touchdown-dependent production masks his underlying struggles in terms of yardage and efficiency. These issues could become a more significant problem for Zeke on a less talented Patriots offense.
On the bright side, it is likely that Elliott could earn the role of the lead red zone back in New England. He saw 19 touches within the 5-yard line last season and punched in 9 of them, compared to Stevenson’s 12 touches and 2 TDs. In addition, Stevenson only took 66% of red zone snaps in 2022, If he continues this red zone domination, it could be his saving grace for the 2023 season.
Consistency is Key
If Elliott can stay consistent in 2023, there is no doubt he will earn a larger role with the Patriots’ offense, and make a splash in fantasy. The question is, can he do it? Last season was a bit of a rollercoaster, as he started the season playing very inconsistently. Then, following an injury that kept him sidelined for two games, Elliott was able to finish the season strong with more consistent play. You can follow this whirlwind in the graphic below:
If Elliott is able to keep his play at the level he finished the 2022 season at, he will get the touches he needs to produce in fantasy; unfortunately, while we know he can play at this high level, we don’t know if he’ll be able to replicate it in his new threads.
In the ever-evolving landscape of fantasy football, making well-informed decisions is paramount. While Ezekiel Elliott has been a fantasy staple in the past, his recent performance metrics raise concerns about his ability to deliver consistent and impactful fantasy numbers. Elliott’s penchant for finding the endzone offers a glimmer of hope, but fantasy managers would be wise to approach him with caution in their draft strategies this season.