For over a year now the NFL has been investigating Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott for alleged domestic violence incidents in July 2016. After a long investigation, the NFL suspended Elliott for the first six games of the 2017 season.
Reportedly, Elliott plans to appeal the suspension. Fantasy football owners are all hopeful that Elliott’s appeal is heard soon, and a possible reduction of his suspension is announced before their fantasy drafts occur. Before the announcement of Elliott’s suspension, he was being selected on average as the RB3 and fourth overall pick in redraft leagues. With the suspension now in place let’s breakdown Elliott’s new fantasy value.
I expect Elliott’s suspension to be reduced from six to four games after his appeal is heard. With a four game suspension Elliott is an early second round pick in 12 team leagues and the RB6 if you put a priority on also drafting his handcuff, Darren McFadden. However, if you don’t want to use two picks on one backfield, Elliott should be considered a late second round pick and RB8. Similarly, last season Le’Veon Bell was suspended the first three games of the year and was drafted as RB6; a late first round pick. If Elliott’s suspension is reduced to four games, his value is similar to Bell’s last year.
However, it is a real possibility that Elliott’s suspension isn’t reduced at all, meaning fantasy owners will not get any production from him until week eight (the Cowboys have a week six bye). In that case you will only have him for five or six regular season fantasy games depending on when your playoffs start. Currently with his six game suspension, Elliott is my RB12 in both standard and PPR leagues. The middle of the third round is where I’d start to consider Elliott with a six game suspension.
With Elliott suspended six games, his two backups, Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris both receive a fantasy boost. Currently McFadden is my RB35 and Morris is RB62; both are now draftable in redraft leagues. For dynasty and keeper leagues, Elliott should not be traded based off this suspension; remember, think long-term, Elliot is currently my number one overall dynasty player. There are several ways to attack your redraft leagues with the current Elliott suspension. Let’s break them down.
I don’t own Elliott, where should I draft McFadden?
If you don’t currently own Elliott as a keeper or someone else takes him before you are willing to, don’t put a priority on drafting McFadden. McFadden will be 30 years old when the season starts and obviously isn’t the same player as Elliott. Also, in the offseason the Cowboys great offensive line took a hit, losing two starters. Of the six games Elliott will miss, three of those teams finished in the top ten against the run last year. In conclusion, McFadden will not give you anywhere near the same fantasy production Elliott did last year.
However, that doesn’t mean you should avoid McFadden at all costs. He should have similar value to Jacquizz Rodgers, who is expected to start for the Buccaneers while Doug Martin is suspended. Martin is only suspended three games, so McFadden has more value then Rodgers. But both are only valuable until their respective starters return from suspension. McFadden is likely to go in the fifth or sixth round range, but if you can land McFadden in the seventh or even eighth round, you will have a steal as an early season RB2.
Where would you feel comfortable drafting Ezekiel Elliott in Redraft leagues if his suspension stays at 6 games? #FantasyFootball
— FantasyFootball 24/7 (@FantasyRanks) August 13, 2017
I don’t own Elliott and I don’t want McFadden. What should I do? Now let’s say you play in a league with a crazy Cowboys fan who takes Elliott in the first round despite the suspension, or an owner has Elliott as one of their keepers, you can always try to grab McFadden and force another owner to make a trade. This is a risky move and if it fails you could be overpaying for a six week stint of McFadden. If you believe you can make the other owner panic and force them into a trade, I would grab McFadden as early as round five. After selecting McFadden make sure you let all the other owners know he is available in trade talks. Hopefully you can convince your league-mate to make a mid-draft trade and either net yourself a couple of picks for McFadden or maybe a player he selected in the earlier rounds. However, it is a risk that could backfire on you, but if you have that one owner that panics or loves their Cowboys, it’s a risk worth taking.
Didn’t think I’d be saying this in 2017: Darren McFadden’s fantasy football draft stock ⬆️⬆️⬆️
— Al Butler (@ALaboutSports) August 11, 2017
I own Elliott, how soon should I draft McFadden?
If you own Elliott, either as a keeper or you selected him earlier in the draft, McFadden should be a priority for you. However, don’t get foolish and overdraft McFadden. Remember, McFadden is only valuable for the first six games and three of those games he might end up on your bench or with single-digit production. Don’t make the mistake of overvaluing the Cowboys’ offensive line and take McFadden over a proven running back who can help you all year long.
I would recommend taking McFadden in the late fifth/early sixth round. For me he has more value than current sixth round running backs: Eddie Lacy and Derrick Henry, neither currently have the starting job secured. However, be sure not to draft McFadden over a Frank Gore or Rob Kelley, who is cemented as the starter and can help you all season long.
Most elusive RB this preseason with 10+ carries: Alfred Morris with an Elusive Rating of 119.2
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) August 14, 2017
I own Elliott but missed out on McFadden, what should I do?
Don’t panic and make a bad trade for McFadden. Instead see if the McFadden owner is willing to make a fair trade. If not then draft Morris with one of your last three picks and be sure to draft one more running back than you had planned entering the draft. This will help protect your running back depth while Elliott is out. Remember McFadden won’t give you the same fantasy production as Elliott will.
So far during the preseason Morris has looked good, averaging 4.42 yards per carry. McFadden is injury prone and with a poor performance or an injury, Morris could be starting for the Cowboys while Elliott is suspended. Morris an under the radar player and should be available at the end of your draft.
In the end, Elliott’s suspension seriously hurts his current fantasy owners and anyone who was targeting him this season. However, if Elliott’s suspension is reduced to four games, he could become a value much like Bell was last season. Every fantasy owner will have to decide entering their draft; to draft Elliott or not? That is the question. Happy hunting fantasy friends!