On Friday, the long awaited news of the fate of Ezekiel Elliott came down with the NFL deciding to suspend him for 6 games. While this has a huge impact on fantasy football as a whole it creates an even more unique set of circumstances for the dynasty player. Let’s take a look at the situation and some different ways to approach it depending on your team’s position.
Ezekiel Elliott – Suspension Overview
In their findings, Todd Jones, the NFL’s Special Counsel for Conduct, said the advisors on the NFL’s 4 person panel, “were of the view that there is substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that [Ezekiel Elliott] engaged in physical violence against Ms. Thompson on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016. After reviewing the record, and having considered the views of the independent advisors, the commissioner determined that the credible evidence established that Ezekiel Elliott engaged in conduct that violated NFL policy.”
It appears likely that Elliott will appeal the suspension and this situation could end up in the courts like many other NFL discipline cases have. While I am not a lawyer it seems highly unlikely the result of any appeal or court battle will be anything but Elliott serving a suspension. This article by Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated does an excellent job of summarizing this from the legal perspective.
While everyone is still recovering from the shock of the length of the suspension remember if Ezekiel Elliott does appeal, he can play. Continue to follow this story closely and understand if and when this suspension would kick into effect. This could linger for a long time and Elliott may end up playing the entire season. The information below is based on the assumption that the suspension starts this season as currently that is the information that is available.
Ezekiel Elliott – Fantasy Ramifications
Ezekiel Elliott is one of the three best fantasy RBs and has been going in the top 3 of most drafts (redraft and dynasty). From a dynasty perspective as only a second year player and playing behind the leagues best offensive line Elliott seemed poised for another monster year. If he misses 6 games this year this destroys his value for 2017. With most leagues being a 13 week regular season and the Cowboys bye coming in Week 7 the earliest Zeke will be able to contribute to your team in Week 8. You would be getting 6 games out of him, so how do you approach this?
Ezekiel Elliott Owners
If you already own Elliott especially in a dynasty league you have a few options.
If you are a non-contending team, then I would suggest not doing anything. In all likelihood, Ezekiel Elliott will be back this year and will be a contributor moving forward. The one danger is if the suspension is upheld and he has another domestic incident he is suspended for life. That last point is certainly worth noting.
If you are a contending team this gets really tricky and will depend on your team’s depth. If you have enough depth that you think you can remain competitive for the first 7 weeks without Elliott then you are lucky. If not, here are a few options.
- Trade Ezekiel Elliott – The problem with this is you are likely not going to get a lot of value in return or at least not equal value. This isn’t a great option and I am guessing some people in your league have already started trying to buy low. (If you don’t own Elliott try and buy low). To me, in a dynasty league this seems like a bad decision unless you can get a good fair deal.
- Go get Darren McFadden – Seriously go get him. Everything I have heard and read is that he will get the bulk of the work in Elliott’s absence. Realistically he is not going to put up the numbers Zeke would, but he could give you 75% of those numbers. This would still make him a top 10-15 level back and an every week starter. He is also someone who you should be able to get on the waiver wire, through a free agent draft or via trade fairly reasonably. If you have McFadden and not Elliott put him on the trade market and see what someone will offer. I have McFadden in two leagues and have already done this. You will get offers.
- Do Nothing – This is a real option. In my last article I advocated for being patient the first few weeks of the season and this is a great litmus test of that. Don’t panic just because you lost Zeke. While it is a blow it doesn’t have to be a season ender. Take the first couple of weeks and evaluate your team. Maybe you get off to a great start without Elliott because a surprise player emerges. This is fresh news and it is shocking due to the unexpectedly long suspension. In my opinion the worst thing you can do is to do something quick and rash.
Oh man this is tough. What do you do in a startup dynasty league? As discussed above, I think it depends on what your strategy is for that league. If you are going to try and contend early then I would avoid Elliott for a player who should be available all 17 weeks. If you are planning on building for the future then I definitely think he is worth the risk especially if you are getting him at a discount (late 1st or even 2nd round). This is honestly the toughest position to be in and the decision will have to be one you make based on how you want to build your team and your risk tolerance.
Because we play in dynasty leagues we have to look at things differently then if you were in a redraft league. In a redraft league this would be simple as you just move Elliott way down the draft board and move on. Since dynasty leagues are long-term endeavors we have to think long-term. As I mentioned earlier, there is nothing that says Elliott shouldn’t be able to return from this suspension and still be a productive player. The Dallas offensive line is still good and he is still young. Realistically this suspension has an effect on every player in every league and you must decide what this does to your team. If you are a non-contending team maybe you try and buy low on Elliott. If you are a contender or aren’t sure if you are maybe this move you up the pecking order in your league. This is a huge fantasy story and one that will continue to evolve. My suggestion is to take a step back and really evaluate how this effects your team whether you are an Elliott owner or not. The one thing I would say to do immediately is go get Darren McFadden! Based on expected cost there is no downside to this. Even if he doesn’t end up being the guy it shouldn’t cost you a lot. After you do that follow the story closely and continue to evolve your strategy based on what is happening. If it looks like this is going to drag on forever in court and Elliott is going to play adjust accordingly. This story has already had a bunch of twists and turns and I suspect this is only the beginning.