The NFL’s decision to suspend Dallas Cowboys Running back Ezekiel Elliott, not only affects betting odds for the Cowboys, it also affects the way fantasy players approach their draft. With the season starting next week, the biggest question on the mind of fantasy players is what to do with Ezekiel Elliot.
As a rookie, Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards, which is one of the reasons he was expected to be a top pick for fantasy players this year. However, the NFL suspended him for the first six games of the season as a result of their investigation into domestic violence charges against the running back.
The silver lining about the suspension is it makes Elliott a great value pick, but when exactly should he be drafted?
Before the NFL’s decision to suspend him, Elliott was projected to be a top three draft pick, but now, he is projected to be a second or third round pick on many fantasy websites.
On Tuesday, Elliot appealed the NFL’s decision, but most NFL insiders believe he will still have to miss some games. Even if he ends up having to sit out six games, it is still worth it to have him on your bench because you will get a lot of points when he returns.
In the 15 games he played last year, Elliott rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also had 363 receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown. Based on last year’s numbers, Elliot is still expected to rush for over 1,087 yards and 10 touchdowns as well as 242 receiving yards and 1 touchdown if he sits the first six games.
For comparison, Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman rushed for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, he also had 462 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Freeman finished sixth in point-per-reception among running backs.
Even though Elliot isn’t as good a receiver as Freeman, his rushing skills give him the potential to finish with lower tier RB1 numbers, even if he plays in six fewer games.
Something you need to consider before drafting Elliot is the fact that if the suspension is upheld, he won’t be able to participate in team activities, which means even if he works out on his own, he won’t be in football shape when he returns.
Unless he has the same genetic makeup as Adrian Peterson, who used to skip the preseason but still finish the season as the top running back in the league, Elliott will need some time to get back into shape, which means he will likely have a slow start to the season.
The flip side of that is he will be fresher than most running backs when he returns, which means he won’t falter down the stretch.
To fill the void left by Elliott, you can draft running backs like Elliott’s Cowboys teammate Darren McFadden or Indianapolis Colts running back Frank Gore, who is expected to get a lot of work from the Colts as they await Andrew Luck’s return.
You can also take a flier out on Ameer Abdullah of the Detroit Lions, who is fully recovered from a season-ending injury that cut his 2016 campaign short, or Denver’s C.J. Anderson.