Note: This post was written before Ezekiel Elliott signed a massive contract extension with the Cowboys on the day before the NFL season opener. Elliott becomes the most likely and appealing No. 4 pick.

This year’s fantasy football landscape is filled with potholes, and the first one should arrive as early as the fourth pick in the draft. Running backs Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara are the most likely players off the board with the top three picks, leaving whomever is drafting in the No. 4 spot with a dilemma: Do you select Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, currently in the midst of a holdout for more money with no end in sight? Do you break the seal on wide receivers and take either DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans or Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers? Or do you go with Arizona Cardinals dual threat David Johnson, who missed virtually all of 2017 due to injury and turned in a 2018 campaign significantly less impressive than his Pro Bowl season of 2016?

Elliott is the consensus choice at No. 4, but it’s possible he doesn’t play a full season even if he returns to the Cowboys. And every game he misses erodes his fantasy value. For example, if Elliott holds out until Week 4, he will have missed out on 81 of his 304 projected fantasy points for 2019, a loss that puts his rest-of-season estimate on par with likely second-round pick Dalvin Cook and third-round pick Leonard Fournette. No thanks. (He’s now No. 6 in our first-round rankings.)

Hopkins and Adams are solid first-round selections, ranking No. 1 and No. 2 at the position in our projections, but the pool of available and appealing running backs will have started to dwindle by the time the draft returns to the No. 4 slot. Cook (4 percent chance of being available at this time), Todd Gurley (12 percent) and Joe Mixon (36 percent) should all be gone, leaving Damien Williams of the Kansas City Chiefs as the first running back with a greater than 50-50 chance of being available. Williams, however, missed most of the first two weeks of Chiefs training camp because of a sore hamstring, and Coach Andy Reid said the team plans on employing a running back-by-committee approach in 2019.

“I did a little bit of that when I was in Philadelphia, a kind of running back-by-committee deal, and we had some success with it.” Reid said during an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio. “We’ll do that here [in Kansas City].

“We’ve got a couple Williamses [Darrel Williams and Damien Williams], and then Carlos [Hyde], we’ve got a new little guy [Darwin Thompson] in there that runs around, so we’ve got a good nucleus of players that I think we’re going to be good at that spot. They all have their strengths, and we’ll try to exploit their strengths.”

If not Damien Williams, then you might be tempted to reach a bit for Fournette of the Jaguars, Kerryon Johnson of the Lions or Devonta Freeman of the Falcons. However, Johnson is likely going higher than he should, considering the presence of veteran C.J. Anderson, rookie Ty Johnson and potential short-yardage specialist Mark Thompson on Detroit’sroster. Freeman, meantime, is at risk of losing opportunities to Ito Smith.

And so the safest bet at No. 4 is to go with David Johnson. Our next-level projections, which are adjusted for weekly strength of schedule, help make the case for Johnson as well. He is projected to earn 308 fantasy points in point-per-reception, or PPR, leagues and should enjoy one of the easiest schedules both in terms of the run and the pass, especially in the first half of the season, which is critical to fantasy success.

Plus, the 27-year-old has a new coach in Kliff Kingsbury, an air-raid specialist who will utilize more four-receiver sets, thus creating mismatches for Johnson, who will often be used as a fifth receiver. Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, could also help juice Johnson’s numbers.

“In previous years, D-ends just slammed down right at me,” Johnson said, per the team’s website. “Now they’ve really got to try to read it. Kyler’s a fast guy, too. It’s going to make them honest and put them in a bind.

“It definitely makes me feel like it’s getting back to 2016. I’m very excited. I can’t wait for the season to actually get going.”

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