Ezekiel Elliott

Why Ezekiel Elliott signing Cowboys contract could be bad for 49ers

Why Ezekiel Elliott signing Cowboys contract could be bad for 49ers

The last time the 49ers faced the Cowboys, running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 147 yards and scored two touchdowns on the ground in a 40-10 loss during Week 7 of the 2017 regular season. Oh, and he also scored on a 72-yard reception. 

The 49ers won't have to worry about Elliott and the Cowboys again this regular season, but the star running back still could be a thorn in their rear this year. 

After missing all of training camp while holding out for a new contract, Elliott received his wish Wednesday morning. Dallas signed the two-time Pro Bowler to a six-year, $90 million contract extension. 

How does this affect the 49ers? The Cowboys could be the final barrier in the 49ers reaching the NFC playoffs. 

With the Eagles considered the favorites in the NFC East, the Cowboys could be competing for a wild-card spot, as could the 49ers. 

Once again, the Rams are considered the favorites in the NFC West, with the 49ers and Seahawks right on their heels. Between the 49ers, Cowboys and Seahawks, that's three teams in two divisions -- with two to go -- competing for two wild-card spots. 

[RELATED: Five questions 49ers must answer to be successful this year]

NBC Sports' Peter King has the 49ers edging the Cowboys and Seahawks for a wild-card spot in the playoffs, but that could change now that Elliott is all-in before the start of regular season. 

They won't face the Cowboys until a possible playoff matchup, but the 49ers certainly wish Tony Pollard was taking carries in Dallas' backfield instead of Zeke. 

Fantasy football first-round picks to skip in your league's 2019 draft

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USATSI/NBC Sports Bay Area

Fantasy football first-round picks to skip in your league's 2019 draft

Your fantasy football league might not be won or lost in the first round, but you can’t exactly afford to screw it up. 

Missing on your first selection can set your draft back, and leave you with a not-so-sturdy foundation heading into the season. You don’t want to reach and pick someone you could have drafted in the later rounds, nor do you want to select someone with significant red flags. 

With those considerations in mind, here are the players you should avoid selecting with your first-round pick in your fantasy football draft. 

Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon

If there are three words you remember from this piece, those should be: Avoid. The. Holdouts. 

As of this writing, neither Elliott nor Gordon have reported to their respective teams’ training camps. Any Le’Veon Bell fantasy owner -- including this writer -- can tell you firsthand how wasting a high pick on a player in an uncertain contract situation can torpedo a season. Season-long holdouts no longer are unprecedented, and must be considered when contemplating picking one of the two. 

If Elliott and Gordon were in camp with the Cowboys and Chargers, respectively, you wouldn’t draw any side eyes drafting either player in the first round. Elliott would be much more of a lock than Gordon, but you could make a case for either at the very least.  

If you’re thinking about taking one of them in the first round, steer clear until they’re in camp. 

Any QB

Your quarterback undoubtedly will end up being your highest scorer, but picking one can wait until the second or third round (at the earliest). 

The skill positions are the ones to focus on in the first round, especially given the amount of talent available. Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey and David Johnson are primed for big years, and you’d be better off taking a flyer on Bell in the back-end of the first round than reaching for, say, Patrick Mahomes with your first pick. 

The drop-off between the first and second tier of quarterbacks isn’t as large as it is at running back or wide receiver, so you really want to make sure you nail that first pick. Missing at one of the skill positions is going to hurt more than missing at QB. 

JuJu Smith-Schuster

There’s a void to be filled out wide in Pittsburgh after the Steelers traded novice painter/star receiver Antonio Brown to the Raiders in the offseason. Smith-Schuster stands to benefit, as he already was one of the better receivers in fantasy football playing with Brown and should be in line for more targets without him. 

The next-gen Steelers are going to air it out as long as Ben Roethlisberger is quarterback, but Roethlisberger turned 37 in March and is coming off of the worst year of his career in terms of yards-per-completion. With one fewer option for Roethlisberger to throw to, Smith-Schuster is going to receive a lot of attention from opposing defenses. 

Smith-Schuster is ready for a bigger role in his third NFL season, and would be a great pick early in the second round. You’ll have surer No. 1 options at receiver in the first, though. 

Travis Kelce

Now that Rob Gronkowski has retired from the NFL in order to party poolside/pursue an acting-and-wrestling career/do Gronk Things, Kelce has taken the reigns as Tight End Worthy Of First-Round Consideration. 

49ers tight end George Kittle just set the single-season receiving-yards record for the position, but his Chiefs counterpart has the benefit of catching passes from Mahomes. That understandably makes him tempting in the back end of the first round, but you’ll be better off waiting.

With so many strong running backs and a handful of dominant receivers to choose from in the first round, the previously-mentioned drop-off at those positions means you should not wait. Go ahead and make Kelce your second pick, especially if your second comes shortly after your first.

Your favorite player from your favorite team

The temptation is there. You’re sitting with your friends, wearing the jersey of your favorite player on your hometown team, and you have to make sure you pick him. You wouldn’t be a good fan otherwise, right? 

No, you would. If your favorite player feels like a reach in the first round, they probably are! Unless that player is one of the top running backs, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., DaVante Adams or Julio Jones, they surely will be available after the first round. 

This rule also applies if you’ve already named your team after a player. You don’t have to draft Jimmy Garoppolo with the fifth overall pick just because your pre-draft team name is “Jimmy GQ.” 

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Even with NFL trade deadline activity, 2017 is still 'The Year of the League Office'

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AP

Even with NFL trade deadline activity, 2017 is still 'The Year of the League Office'

The NFL trade deadline could not have come at a better time for commissioner Roger Goodell. Between Jimmy Garoppolo, Jay Ajayi, Jimmy Garoppolo, Duane Brown and Jimmy Garoppolo, the conversation about Goodell’s diminishing viability with Jerry Jones and the rapacious hardliners (as opposed to the rapacious moderates or the rapacious doves) diminished.

But the tempête de merde is never that far away for Goodell. After the Garoppolo trade turned football on its ear, Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension was upheld by district court judge Katherine Polk Failla (who did so by rejecting an NFL Players Association appeal of the suspension that had already been vacated once, or something like that). This reminded Jones that Goodell must die – metaphorically, I mean. It's a Halloween thing, not an actual idea.

Then Colin Kaepernick’s lawyer for his pending collusion suit against the league, Mark Geragos, declared on the Adam Carolla Show that his client would be signed by an nfl team within 10 days based on . . . ohh, I don’t know, werewolf entrails?

This further reminded the 32 wallets that the league is in chaos, and the business of making obscene amounts of money is never not in jeopardy, and that means Jones gets to use that as the stalking horse to continue his principal pastime of hunting gingers in suits.

And therein lies the consistent beauty of the NFL in 2017. While our attention is easy to divert – hell, the Garoppolo trade is the most delightful player move in years if you measure such things by the vats of speculative drooling it inspires – the core business is still Topic A this year, and the core business remains wobblier than at any time since the All-American Football Conference rose up in 1946.

And by wobblier, we mean the future of that core business, which is generating money for people who already have it. The NFL will not die easily, and probably not in our lifetimes, but the league is being surrounded by cultural forces beyond its control and is dealing with them all with the surgical dexterity of a drunken bear in a giant sack.

So Jimmy Garoppolo did his best. He turned the offseason on its ear, may have begun the Great Resuscitation of the corpse impersonation in Santa Clara, and may have forced Tom Brady to finally declare his mutant status as an immortal.

But in the end, 2017 is still The Year Of The League Office, and nothing says “I’m doing something else” to an audience quite like that.