The Dallas Cowboys are once again the favorite to win the NFC East heading into the 2022 season and they will once again have running back Ezekiel Elliott. The two-time NFL rushing champion appeared in all 17 regular season games last year and despite suffering a torn PCL, he still managed to get above 1,000 yards for the fourth time in his career.
Heading into the new campaign, questions loom over whether the veteran tailback’s best days are behind him. We’ll get those answers when the Cowboys kick the season off against the Buccaneers in Week 1.
2021 season statistics & fantasy finish
Rushing: Elliott took 237 carries for 1,002 yards (4.2 ypc) and 10 touchdowns. He had just one fumble for the season.
Receiving: He caught 47 of 65 targets for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
Fantasy: Elliott finished the season as the seventh ranked fantasy running back in PPR formats. He compiled 252.1 points to the tune of 14.8 fantasy points per game.
Cowboys offseason moves
The biggest move the Cowboys made in the offseason was dealing star wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Browns. While it solidified CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup as the top two receiving targets for the offense, it doesn’t really affect the number of carries tailbacks like Elliott will get.
Dallas also used its first-round pick on Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Smith. He has a chance to secure a starting spot right away and make the job for the Cowboys’ running backs much easier.
2022 best case scenario
If Elliott is close to 100% for a bulk of the season, he has the opportunity to replicate the production of year’s past and put to bed any concerns of a possible decline. If the team gets on a roll coming out of the gate, that’ll bode well for fantasy managers with Zeke in their lineups.
2022 worst case scenario
Zeke is entering his seventh year in the league and this is around the point where backs of his caliber start losing a step. There’s a chance that he won’t as explosive as he was in year’s past and the threat of injury is always around the corner. There’s also the presence of Tony Pollard in the backfield and the fourth-year back could very well cut into some of Elliott’s carries throughout the season.
Elliott barely crossed over 1,000 yards last season and recorded only two 100-yards games. Even with a PCL tear as an excuse, that’s not a good sign for him moving forward. I believe that this year you’ll see a more pronounced decline in his production and he’ll fail to obtain at least 4.0 yards per carry for the first time in his career.