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Tony Pollard Isn’t All Hype – Why I’m Continuing to Buy This Season’s James Conner Even as His ADP Explodes

Exactly one week ago, I highlighted Tony Pollard as the Cowboys RB to target in redraft if Ezekiel Elliott‘s holdout continues. Not only that, but I also emphasized that Pollard likely has standalone value even if/when Elliott returns to the team.

The Pollard Hype Train Has Officially Left the Station

As of August 7 — when that article was published — Pollard’s ADP sat around 200 overall. But, since then, his ADP has sky-rocketed to around 150.

He now reports an even lower ADP than Darwin Thompson, who burst into public consciousness with his impressive performance in the Chiefs’ opening preseason game.

His Impressive Group of Player Comps

In my original article on Pollard, I highlighted his explosiveness, efficiency, and versatility. His college rushing and receiving stats draw player comps that include Jaylen SamuelsIto SmithElijah McGuireTheo RiddickDeMarco MurrayC.J. SpillerChris Johnson, and Percy Harvin. That’s pretty impressive company to keep.

Not only that, but our Prospect Box Score Scout adds a few more noteworthy comps to the equation: Kenyan DrakeNyheim HinesAlvin Kamara, and Devonta Freeman.

Oh, yeah. There’s one more thing I neglected to mention in last week’s article: Pollard returned seven kicks for touchdowns in his three-year career at Memphis. He’s tied with Spiller and Rashaad Penny for the most kick return touchdowns in a college career since 2000. His 30.1 average yards per return also ranks second over that span. This is especially encouraging because special teams contributions are an important and underutilized element in RB prospect evaluation.

…And It Doesn’t Stop There

Want even more Pollard hype? I’ll give it to you. He recorded a 4.52-second forty time at the NFL combine, and multiple outlets reported that he was battling food poisoning at the time.

At his Memphis pro day, he clocked an unofficial 4.37 forty time. His college results and kick return prowess suggest that unofficial forty time holds up.

The James Conner Comparison

Pollard and James Conner are not physically similar players. At the time of his combine performance, Conner weighed in 23 pounds heavier than Pollard and ran a 4.63 forty.

Still, it’s hard not to see the obvious parallels between Conner’s 2018 offseason and Pollard’s current team situation. As a reminder, let’s recap Le’Veon Bell’s holdout timeline last offseason:

  • July 25 — Bell fails to report to training camp.
  • Sept. 3 — He remains in Florida, eclipsing his 2017 holdout when he reported Labor Day weekend.
  • Sept. 5 — Bell’s teammates publicly express frustration over his absence.
  • Sept. 9 — Conner starts in Pittsburgh’s Week 1 game against the Browns.1

We’re obviously a long way from September, but it was around this time last year when Conner’s ADP began its upward trajectory.

Buy or Sell?

Realistically, do we expect Elliott to forgo the entire 2019 season as Bell did last year? That outcome seems unlikely. Nonetheless, the Cowboys still have not agreed on extensions for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, and Elliott appears last in line to get paid.

It’s almost certain that Dallas is actively promoting Pollard publicly in order to apply leverage against Elliott. However, just because Pollard’s hype may be due in part to PR tactics, that doesn’t mean his upside isn’t real. His athletic profile, college production, and player comps suggest that he could proficiently handle lead-back duties. And Cowboys owner Jerry Jones seems to agree.

How to Play It

I’ve been liberally targeting Pollard in redraft and dynasty formats over the last month.

Don’t let his rising ADP scare you off. If you’re drafting in the next week, don’t be afraid to take Pollard as early as the 12th Round. And honestly, I wouldn’t blame you if you targeted him as early as the 10th. Even if Elliott inks a deal tomorrow, Pollard could still project as this season’s version of Nyheim Hines.

With a borderline-Flex floor and a clear path to lead-back usage, he remains a steal in the mid-to-late rounds in redraft. Don’t miss your chance to seize one of this season’s juiciest fantasy opportunities.

Image Credit: Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: James Conner.

  1. He rushed 31 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns. He also added five receptions on six targets for 57 receiving yards.  (back)

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