Know the risk in drafting Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon

As you prepare for your fantasy football drafts, you’re going to get a whirlwind of advice: Bulk up on running backs and wide receivers early, be sure to wait on a quarterback, grab yourself an elite tight end within the first few rounds.

Before you start trudging through all the tips and helpful hints, you need to decide what type of player you are. Are you conservative and prefer to stick to the basic blueprint the majority of the industry offers, or do you like to shoot for the moon? Do you prefer to play it safe or do you stare high-risk moments in the face and flash your teeth? These questions will be immediately answered by how you feel about drafting Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon.

The running back position got a huge slap in the face last season when Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell sat out the entire year in a contract dispute. That has now paved a similar path for two of the top five players at the position this season. Elliott and Gordon, in their respective fourth and fifth years of their rookie contracts, have informed their teams they will not come to training camp without a new deal. Regardless of how you feel about grown men failing to honor a signed and legally-binding contract, the question of whether to draft them in fantasy is the issue at hand, and that boils down to risk versus reward.

Of the two players, Gordon seems to be the most likely to hold out for the entire season. The Chargers are notoriously cheap when it comes to negotiations, and Gordon has made it known he will sit out for as long as it takes. Fantasy owners seem to be erring on the side of caution, and he has dropped from a first-round pick to a mid-fourth-rounder.

Is there value to be had with selecting Gordon in your fourth round? If he plays a full season, absolutely. If he plays half a season, not so much. Like Bell, he already has accumulated the four years necessary to go to free agency in 2020, so aside from a year’s salary, he has got nothing to lose.

Elliott is a much different story, as he still needs his fourth year for free agency. More importantly, the Cowboys are in their best spot in years when it comes to being a Super Bowl contender.

Elliott is holding the team hostage right now, and despite owner Jerry Jones’ recent comments claiming the team will be just fine without their star player, he is expected to cave. While this holdout could bleed into the regular season, it is not expected to go past a couple of weeks, and fantasy owners know it, as evidenced by Elliott maintaining his first-round draft position.

If you’re all about playing it safe, you want to avoid both in drafts. If you don’t mind risk, feel free to take Elliott in the first round, but stay away from Gordon. The Chargers have played and succeeded without Gordon before. Dallas, sans Zeke, has not, and Jerry Jones knows this.

Howard Bender is VP of operations and head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on Twitters @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 4-6 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy football advice and NFL player rankings.

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