The Dallas Cowboys enter Week 17 with nothing to play for. At 9-6, Dallas has already clinched the NFC East and is locked into the number four seed. With the playoffs just around the corner, the Cowboys won’t put any of their key players at risk. However, there still is a game to play, and Dallas will have to send somebody out to actually take the field. The Cowboys won’t risk the health of Ezekiel Elliott, so backup running back Rod Smith should see the majority of the work. If this is the week of your fantasy championship, make sure to put Rod Smith into your starting lineup.
Fantasy Football: Play Rod Smith Instead of Ezekiel Elliott
Learning From History
Nobody in their right mind thinks that Rod Smith a better football player than Ezekiel Elliott. However, if history is any indicator, Elliott will see little to no action in the season finale. We’ve been down this road before with Elliott and the Cowboys, and they rested him in the past.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys entered Week 17 with a sterling 13-2 record and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. With nothing to play for, Dallas rested their then-rookie running back in the season finale. Elliott didn’t even dress, and Darren McFadden saw the majority of the work.
Chances are, the Cowboys will do the exact same thing this time around. Jason Garrett is still the head coach, Jerry Jones still leads the front office, and all the important decision-makers from 2016 are still in Dallas. These exact people decided to sit Elliott before, so they’ll probably decide to do it again.
What Rod Smith Can Do
Smith doesn’t have the largest sample in the world, recording just 89 carries since entering the league back in 2015. Spending the majority of his career with the Cowboys, Smith has 329 rushing yards and four touchdowns throughout his career. His 3.7 yards-per-carry reflects the type of backup-caliber talent he is. He also offers something in the passing game, as the fourth-year running back has 28 career receptions for 258 yards and a touchdown.
So far this year, Smith has recorded 92 rushing yards on 32 carries for 2.9 yards-per-carry. However, using this year’s stats might not do him justice, as he’s yet to record more than six carries in a single contest. Smith saw a larger workload back in 2017 when Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for a portion of the season.
Smith saw six or more carries in six games back in 2017. During those games, the running back recorded 48 carries for 200 yards and four touchdowns, good for 4.17 yards-per-carry. Smith also recorded 11 receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown in the passing game.
Basically, Smith is the definition of a serviceable backup. He’s not going to singlehandedly win matchups like Elliott, but he’s capable of being a safe high-volume play who has a decent chance of falling in the endzone. His skills alone don’t make him a must-start, but his matchup and high-volume make him a smart play.
The Rod Smith Matchup
Smith faces off against a New York Giants team which allows the seventh-most fantasy points-per-game to the running back position (22.1). Football Outsiders ranks the Giants as the 19th-best rush defense in the league, so Smith should have ample opportunity to run the ball.
Additionally, the Cowboys will have every reason to try to run the football. If history is any indicator, Dak Prescott probably won’t see the field much during Week 17’s action. Back in 2016’s season finale, Prescott threw just eight passes before heading to the bench. This means that backup quarterback Cooper Rush will see the majority of the action. Nobody wants Cooper Rush throwing the ball, so Dallas will try to run the ball to minimize Rush’ impact on the game.
On top of that, the Cowboys won’t be able to rest every key starter. The primary goal for Dallas is to get in and out of Week 17 without any injuries. The fastest way to get out of the playoffs with a clean slate of health is to run the ball. Because of this, Dallas will probably use their ground attack regardless of the score.
Last Word on Rod Smith In Week 17
One of the biggest dangers in having a Week 17 championship is that someone like Rod Smith might take carries away from a guy like Ezekiel Elliott. Still, this is the reality we live in so, like it or not, Smith will see the grand majority of Elliott’s carries.
Smith isn’t anything special, but he’s shown the ability to be a serviceable guy in the backfield. He should see a high volume and has a good chance to find the end zone. This alone sets a safe floor, and his matchup only increases his value. The Giants struggle to stop running backs, and the game script will likely dictate a run-heavy approach by the Cowboys.
Rod Smith won’t give you Ezekiel Elliot production, but he can be a safe play in your flex spot. If you’re the Ezekiel Elliot owner, make sure you go out and check your waiver wire. If C.J. Anderson isn’t available, Rod Smith is the best fill-in likely on the waiver wire.
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