We knew a suspension was coming, but now it is official: Ezekiel Elliott has been banned for the first six games of the season. Elliott now has three business days (until August 16th-17th) to appeal the suspension.
This goes without saying, but Elliott is a massive first-round bust if you have already held your draft(s) this summer. But now, based on the news, where should he be going? Where does this leave Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, and possibly another addition in Dallas’ backfield?
Let’s get to it all.
Where Zeke Falls
Elliott’s suspension is tricky. Since it is a six game ban and Dallas has their bye in Week 6, fantasy owners won’t get any production from Ezekiel Elliott until Week 8 in late-October. Granted, fantasy owners won’t be taking a zero for seven straight weeks in Elliott’s spot in the lineup, but there is a clear opportunity cost in taking Elliott in fantasy drafts now.
Let’s go through the numbers.
Pre-suspension, Elliott was our RB3 overall – behind only David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell. Since Elliott will be out six games (or 35% of the regular season), we can make some sweeping adjustments to his full-season output. Using our 16-game projection as a barometer (320 PPR Points; RB3 overall), Elliott’s new 10 game projection would be around 186/927/8.5 rushing (208 PPR Points; RB17 overall).
Now, fantasy football is a weekly game. Season-long statistics are great, but ultimately we want week-winners on our teams. There’s a big difference in Frank Gore finishing as the overall RB17 across 16 games and Ezekiel Elliott finishing as RB16, playing in only 10 contests.
There’s no denying Zeke was a league-winner last year. Elliott finished as a top-12 back (RB1) in an absurd 73.3% of his games from Week 1-16 last year and did so by finishing 32nd among all backs in targets (40).
There is no guarantee that Elliott stays out of trouble until he can return in late-October and it’s hard to burn one of your first two or three picks on a back that is missing nearly 40% of the fantasy regular season. Ultimately, the decision is one of risk aversion and team building. Elliott’s range of outcomes is quite wide in 2017.
However, in Part One of my ADP Anxiety series, I noted that, regardless of Elliott’s looming suspension, he’s a good bet to increase his receiving output in his second year.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Since 2000, 43 running backs have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. For this study, 40 of the backs qualified by playing over half in their following season. Of those 40 ball carriers that were taken in Round One...