After months of speculation and nearly a year in the making, we now know Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott will be suspended for the first six games of the 2017 season in the wake of a domestic violence investigation. While not wholly surprising on the surface, it’s still a gut punch to teams relying on Elliott to bring them a fantasy football championship this year. The suspension is a significant one in dynasty leagues and owners will have to keep their teams in the mix during the first part of the year and hope they don’t fall out of the running before their prized asset can return.
Our job at DLF is to analyze news and events and how they impact your leagues. We certainly don’t want to make light of the accusations against Elliott because they’re very serious. However, we also stay away from being much of a moral compass and allow our readers to make their own minds on how they feel about someone’s character. We’ll stick to fantasy analysis.
With all that being said, this suspension will have an impact on dynasty leagues. Let’s spin around the Cowboys depth chart and discuss the impact on each player.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB DAL
The lazy narrative here is to just say this is a short-term suspension that will be forgotten by Halloween. The problem with that is Elliott has exhibited a pattern of questionable behavior that has to be taken into account. With an NFL suspension under his belt, that pattern must now stop or Elliott is going to quickly become one of the highest risk players in all of dynasty leagues. In fact, it’s being reported the language used in his suspension is stating additional infractions could result in more suspensions or even banishment. As it stands now, he’s already going to make many dynasty owners a little nervous about owning him. While everyone hopes this is truly a blip on the radar, the capital used to acquire him (or what you could get for trading him) is so enormous that owners need to really evaluate how risk tolerant they’re going to be and respond accordingly.
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Beyond that, Elliott should put together a nice ten-game stretch at the end of the season and give a nice boost to teams who were able to weather the storm without him.
Darren McFadden, RB DAL
It just wouldn’t seem like fantasy football if Darren McFadden wasn’t somehow borderline relevant. McFadden has always been a talented runner but also one who just simply can’t shake the injury bug. Over his nine-year career with the Raiders and Cowboys, McFadden has posted 5,423 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns on 4.2 yards per carry – these numbers are far from what dynasty owners once hoped for when he came out of Arkansas so many years ago. On the plus side, McFadden fared pretty well in Dallas in 2015 as he rushed for 1,089 yards and three scores pre-Elliott. The soon-to-be 30-year old running back isn’t the player he once was but he’ll have a chance at short-term value with Elliott on the shelf.
Alfred Morris, RB DAL
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Once a promising young rookie with Washington who posted 1,613 rushing yards in his first season, Morris has seen his rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing average drop in every season since. He ended last season with just 243 rushing yards on 3.5 yards per carry and didn’t look impressive at any point in his first year with Dallas. Morris now has his best opportunity to show he still has some juice left in the tank and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him outplay McFadden early in the season and take the bigger part of a timeshare. Still, it’s tough to own Morris in a dynasty league and his owners really need him to be released and find a home on a team that needs more long-term production at the position – six games really isn’t going to do it. Unfortunately, the Elliott suspension actually hurts Morris’ value in dynasty leagues as Dallas will likely be forced to keep him this season, blocking his move to a team that incurs an injury or has a need that will last longer than six contests.
Rod Smith and Ronnie Hillman, RBs DAL
Smith and Hillman will both get a legitimate chance to show what they can do over the rest of the preseason. These players will both be worth monitoring as the Cowboys depth chart behind Elliott is wide open. If either can show well, they could generate short-term value.
Rashad Jennings, DeAngelo Williams, RBs FA
Savvy owners with roster spots could conceivably go pick up either of these two running backs just in case the Cowboys decide to go in a different direction and determine they don’t like what they see in the likes of McFadden, Morris or the other running backs on the roster. If either was signed, they could undoubtedly have some quick value. We’ve already seen what Williams can do replacing a star running back. What could that look like behind that offensive line? Just remember he’s on the record saying he’d never play for Dallas, so a lot of fences would have to be mended there. Jennings is would be more likely to get a look here, though Williams is still one injury away from a phone call.
Dak Prescott, QB DAL
We may find out really quickly just how good Prescott is. Without Elliott in the backfield, defenses won’t be forced to stack the box as much and will now challenge Prescott to beat them more with his arm. On the plus side, the Dallas offensive line is elite and should be able to protect him adequately (as long as the other backs can pick up Elliott’s pass blocking acumen, which is pretty high). This is a great opportunity for dynasty owners to truly evaluate Prescott as they make long-term roster decisions.
Cowboys Skill Players
You can make a case the Cowboys are going to pass more for the first part of the season and that should help the likes of Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and the rest of the Dallas receivers. You can also make the case that defenses will pay more attention to them. In the end, it’s probably a bit of a short-term wash.
The Ezekiel Elliott suspension is a legitimate concern in dynasty leagues and one that come with a myriad of short-term and long-term concerns and worry. Keep it here and we’ll continue to monitor the situation and bring you all the news as it comes in, as only this dynasty site truly does.
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