It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, so the idea of having an elite RB1 like Ezekiel Elliott for the price of a second round pick, is enticing. If you hit on your other picks, you will lock in an advantage over your peers who didn’t mine as much late season value from their picks.
If you do target Elliott, you’ll have the knowledge that you are taking him to help you prepare for his possible six-game absence, which can cushion the blow of getting nothing from a core pick for the first seven weeks of the season. Which players are the best targets to pair up with Elliott?
Note: Remember that number of bench spots is a key variable to consider when determining whether taking these players are wise for your team. In a 14 or 16-man roster league, taking a suspended player necessarily means you have to carry an extra player than can’t contribute and therefore clogs up a roster spot that can be used in the all important early waiver wire runs. In 20-man roster leagues, you should easily be able to carry replacement candidates without limiting early season roster flexibility. Just make sure you don’t take too many other “late bloomers” like rookies or injured players that you will feel reluctant to release early in the season.
Darren McFadden, DAL (Cost: 7th-8th Round) - This is the easy answer, although one that might not be satisfying by Week 2 or 3. All signs point to McFadden being the clear backup and lead back while Elliott is out. Then we remember that this is Darren McFadden, he of the frequent injury and disappointment. The 7th-8th round is prime territory for upside RB/WR plays, an ascendent QB1 talent or one of the last TE1’s. Something in my gut tells me that this isn’t the most productive angle on mitigating an early pick of Elliott, and we might see more of Rod Smith and Alfred Morris than expected.