Tony Pollard Fantasy Outlook 2023
To many, the emergence of Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard came as a surprise. To others, it was inevitable. In 2022, the 26-year-old gave us a mere glimpse of what he can do with extra touches, but with Ezekiel Elliott now gone, the possibilities for Pollard’s production are endless.
Last season, the 2019 fourth-round pick burst onto the scene in Dallas with 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, while hauling in 39 catches for 371 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He was a fantasy owner’s dream considering his late preseason ADP and proved to be much more than just an elite handcuff to Elliott.
Entering 2023, that shouldn’t even be a discussion anymore. Ezekiel Elliott was released by Dallas in March to save money and the Cowboys are not expected to resign him. This paves the way for a clear-cut, bell cow opportunity for Tony Pollard. In the three games Elliott has missed since 2019, Pollard has averaged 105 rushing yards and 30 receiving yards while totaling six touchdowns. While it’s an extremely small sample size, it’s still tremendously impressive and the eye test backs it up. The Cowboys clearly want to find more ways to get him involved and when he’s the focal point of the offense, he looks like one of the best running backs in the NFL.
While the talent isn’t lacking by any means, the lack of experience as a consistent high-volume player could cause some concern. The only thing he has yet to prove so far is the ability to sustain a heavy workload for an entire season. Since entering the league, Pollard has been able to lean on Elliott for the extensive rushing drives and the dirty work near the goal line.
Over the two-game stretch in which Elliott was out last season, Pollard didn’t see the huge jump in usage that might have been expected. He averaged 18 carries and two receptions which came out to just six more attempts per game compared to his season averages while seeing fewer pass-catching opportunities. To me, this could be a red flag. It tells me that the heavier the workload he has on the ground, the less he’ll be involved in the passing game. Again, it’s an extremely small sample size, but it could come to fruition for a full season when considering that Pollard is also coming off of a broken fibula suffered the playoffs last year. One can only assume that the Cowboys have learned from their mistakes with Elliott and take extra precautions with Tony Pollard to minimize his wear and tear.
Over the course of his four-year career, the former Memphis running back has logged just three games of 15 carries or more. If there’s anything to be concerned about with Pollard entering the 2023 season, it should be his lack of experience as a high-volume rusher. Nevertheless, he is still one of the most skilled players at the position and should be the centerpiece of the Dallas offense this year.
With the marginal moves of signing Ronald Jones and drafting Deuce Vaughn, the Cowboys didn’t do anything in the offseason to prevent Pollard from getting RB1-level touches out of the backfield. Combine this with the possible added motivation of playing in a contract year (assuming he doesn’t get a new contract before July 17), he could be in for a really special fantasy football season.
As of late June, Pollard’s ADP is at 22 with seven running backs being drafted ahead of him. Considering his RB7 finish last season in half-PPR leagues and the extra opportunities he will undoubtedly be seeing, this is a little low for me. Even with the uncertainty as to how he’ll handle a heavier workload, I don’t see him finishing outside of the top five this season. He’s one of the most talented players in football and now he has the chance to show it with his first season as a full-time starter ahead of him.
Will Holtz is a graduate of the University of North Texas with a degree in journalism. He has been playing fantasy football for 15 years and hopes to help fantasy managers become fantasy champions. When he is not writing about fantasy football, he writes about the NBA and spends time with his family and girlfriend.