Yikes!: If Ezekiel Elliott is missing the
first six games, he’s a third-round pick at best.
If what the NFL alleged happened in its letter to Ezekiel Elliott
is true, then he deserves every bit of his six-game suspension.
It obviously goes without saying, but no one condones any violence
of any sort, let alone the actions the NFL determined Zeke committed.
“But I will spare some, for some of you will escape
the sword when you are scattered among the lands and nations.”
The wrath of the Elliott suspension could have irreparable effects
on those of you that have already drafted. Man is this frustrating.
How many years in a row are we going to see an elite fantasy running
back miss the start of the season? Well, the answer may not be
three. This will be my 16th year playing fantasy football and
I can confidently say this is going to be the most challenging
and controversial draft issue I’ve ever had to encounter. What
are you supposed to do? Let’s paint the scenario and then try
and figure out the proper approach.
In the time it took for me to write this paragraph and finish
the rest of this article, Elliott’s lawyers already announced
they are appealing the suspension. Appeals are heard on the second
Tuesday following the appeal. That puts us at August 22 for the
hearing, right in the heart of draft season. Given what we know,
I do not believe the suspension will be reduced, but that’s
just my opinion on the matter. Even assuming I’m correct,
that doesn’t simplify things at all. The question causing
the biggest headache is: When will the suspension occur?
On May 11, 2015, Tom Brady was suspended four games for his
role in Deflategate. On May 12, 2015, Tom Brady appealed his suspension.
On June 23, 2015, Brady’s appeal hearing was conducted.
On June 28, 2015, just five days later, the NFL upheld Brady’s
suspension. On September 3, 2015, the U.S. District Court reversed
Brady’s suspension. It wasn’t until April 25, 2016
that Brady’s suspension was reinstated. Brady then went
on to appeal to the 2nd Circuit and ultimately stopped short of
going to the Supreme Court. It was a lengthy ordeal that resulted
in Brady playing a full season before serving his four-game suspension
to start the 2016 season.
Elliott’s team has already released a statement opposing
the ruling and claiming multiple factual inaccuracies and “cherry
picked” evidence. This strikes me as a fight Elliott will
drag out until he ultimately cannot anymore.
Many of us will draft while the appeal is pending. We will likely
get a ruling before the season starts and assuming it is upheld,
Elliott will almost certainly file for an injunction temporarily
staying the suspension pending the conclusion of court proceedings.
It happened with Brady and it happened with Kevin and Pat Williams
previously. Zeke will be eligible play if this occurs. So when
you draft Zeke, you could be…
Getting a player missing the first six games of the season, although I think that is unlikely.
Getting a player missing six games in a row at some point this season (more likely).
Getting a player active for the entire season, but you won’t know that going into each week.
Elliott’s draft position is going to be wildly inconsistent
from league to league based upon how risk averse the owners are
and where we are in the appeals process.
If you draft before the appeal is ruled upon, I don’t know
how you can take Elliott in the first two rounds. The level of
uncertainty is simply too great.
If we knew for sure he was going to miss the first six games,
that knocks him into Round 3. I would still struggle to draft
him there, but that’s where he would likely go in most standard
If you draft after the suspension is upheld, but before Zeke files
any sort of injunction, you have to assume he’s missing
the first six games.
If you draft after he’s filed an injunction, you have to assume
he’s playing the entire season. We saw how long it took with Brady.
Pat Williams played out the rest of his career while waiting for
a decision. As you may or may not know, my day job is a lawyer –
I can tell you first hand how slow the legal process can be. If
Zeke is playing Week 1 against the Giants, then you probably need
to approach your draft as if the suspension doesn’t exist. If he
gets hit midseason, then so be it. This is a truly one of a kind
situation for a fantasy player of this caliber facing an uncertain
As a quick recap…
1. If Zeke is missing the first six games, he’s a third-round
pick at best.
2. If Zeke is missing four games, you can probably justify him
in the late first/early second.
3. If Zeke might miss six games at some point pending the court
system, but is on track to play Week 1, you take him third overall
as you otherwise would.
Your outlook on the situation should drive you to one of the approaches
Impact on Dak, Bryant and the other
The Cowboys will likely have to throw a bit more due Elliott’s
absence, potentially creating more negative game script. It’s
a small boost for Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant, but not much.
The biggest beneficiary is the fantasy RB2 you’re going
to get for the first six weeks. Everyone is projecting Darren McFadden, but I’m not so sure. Alfred Morris looked far
better in the Hall of Fame game. They could form some sort of
committee, but one thing we can be certain of is that DMC will
be in on passing downs because Ally Mo isn’t much of a receiver.
The rest of the running back depth chart includes Rod Smith and
Ronnie Hillman. Both are long shots to make a meaningful fantasy
The Cowboys next two preseason games should provide more clarity
on who the No.2 running back will be. Hopefully you can acquire
that information before your draft so in case you do take Elliott
and you lose him for six weeks, you can grab the appropriate backup.
My lean would be on Morris right now, but that’s all it
is – a lean.
This is a challenging fantasy situation and we can only hope for
a resolution sooner rather than later.