Ezekiel Elliott Suspended 6 Games by the NFL
On August 11th, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott would be suspended for the first 6 games of 2017 NFL Season.
The NFL’s year long investigation concluded with the decision to suspend Elliott after accusations from a July 2016 police report filed in Columbus, Ohio. In the report, Elliott’s former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson claimed that he attacked her several times over the course of a week. Thompson posted photos to her Instagram page showing bruises on her leg, arms, hand, and neck.
Elliott and his camp refuted the accusations immediately. His father, Stacy Elliott, who represents the Cowboys RB distributed a statement on August 11 through email.
“The reported allegations and Internet postings regarding our son are completely false,” Stacy Elliott said. “Ezekiel has done nothing wrong. The police have investigated this matter, and eyewitnesses have verified the lack of any wrongdoing. The actual evidence in this matter clearly indicates what the real motivation was behind the police being called.
On August 15, the NFL Players Association announced that they have appealed the NFL’s 6-game suspension against Elliott.
A hearing before commissioner Roger Goodell or a person designated by him will be held on August 29. Per the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
As the situation currently stands the Ohio State product will be out of action until the Cowboys play the Washington Redskins on October 29 in their Week 8 matchup. Chances are Elliott will lose his appeal, as the NFL will not take any chances on another domestic abuse scandal (ah la: Ray Rice). For complete information on this situation and what’s next in the process, check out this article from Sports Illustrated.
To many fantasy player’s surprise, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line was not ranked #1 in the NFL by Pro Football Focus last season. The Tennesee Titans that were led by RT Jack Conklin took that title. But, the Cowboys finished a close second. They did win the NFL’s Best Offensive Line Award rightfully so, leading the league in first- and second-down runs that moved the chains. The Cowboys recorded eight more of those first down runs than the second ranked Buffalo Bills. Only the Bills had more runs of at least 10 yards than the Cowboys did last year.
Because of their success last season and their recent history, fantasy players across the industry have given Dallas the benefit of the doubt of having an unmatched offensive line. While they have been undoubtedly the best-run blocking line for the last three years, their time on top may be running out. In fact, Pro Football Focus bumped the Cowboys from second all the way down to ninth in their preseason rankings.
On the July 30 episode of The Coach and Cole Show R.J. Ochoa of ESPN San Antonio and Blogging The Boys told us that this season the Cowboys may experience some more road bumps than they have in seasons past. “It makes sense to have some trepidation and it makes sense to not just assume that they are going to be spectacular again.”
Keeping all of this mind it may not have been a sure thing that Elliott would again lead the league in Rushing like he did in 2016. Yes, he is as talented of a runner as any running back currently in the NFL but, Zeke undoubtedly benefited from having that offensive line in 2016.
If the Cowboys three mainstays in Smith, Frederick, and Martin can stay healthy by the time Elliott returns in week 8 he should have enough power up front to make way for his fresh legs to help propel Dallas to the Playoffs again in 2017.
The good news for the Cowboys is that their number two running back is no slouch. The bad news is that “Run DMC” Darren McFadden can never stay healthy. In fact, he has only played all 16 games twice in his nine-year career, both happening as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. In his last season as the starter, he rushed for 1,089 yards on 239 carries.
Currently, the Cowboys have Alfred Morris and Ronnie Hillman listed behind McFadden on the depth chart, neither of whom will eat into McFadden’s workload if he remains healthy.
The loss of Elliott will not have implications on the Cowboys offensive game-planning moving forward as McFadden is more than capable of being a number one guy. McFadden told the Dallas Morning News on August 14 that he was shocked but more than ready to take over for Elliot.
“I feel great,” McFadden said. “I’m definitely going to be able to handle the load. I feel like I definitely can get back to that  status.”
However, we cannot expect a 30-year-old McFadden to have as much success as Elliott during the Cowboys first 6 games. Not to mention the Cowboys will have to face one of the toughest slate of run defenses in the NFL in 2017. Their first five opponents are the New York Giants, who ranked second in defense-adjusted value over average last season, the Denver Broncos, who ranked first in defensive DVOA, the Arizona Cardinals, who ranked third, the Los Angeles Rams, who were first in stuff percentage, and the Green Bay Packers, who were ninth in rushing yards allowed.
While, the Cowboys may game plan similarly with McFadden right away, the fact that the Cowboys offensive line is no longer the same and they play very formidable opponents right off the bat could lead to Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan and Head Coach Jason Garrett to lean more heavily on the arm of Sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott. Some wondered if the Cowboys will elect to use Prescott’s legs to their advantage until Elliott returns. Linehan recently commented on topic after Garrett told reporters that they would not be altering the playbook.
“He’s going to run anyway because of his game, his mobility, but I think you’re going to lean on the side of picking your times when you do it, I think if you do it a lot it certainly can be a little bit of a distraction to what you’re trying to do. That’s why you have runners,” Linehan said.
Unless the Cowboys are forced to alter their game plans situationally, do not expect big changes to the look of this offense with or without Elliott.
Elliott was a consensus top-three, first round fantasy draft choice so far this season. Since the NFL’s decision to suspend Elliott he has fallen to a second or third rounder in 1,559 fantasy football mock drafts completed on FantasyFootballCalculator.com between August 12 and August 14. His current Consensus Fantasy Pros ADP has dropped to RB5 from RB3 and that will continue to plummet in the coming days.
I had Elliott ranked #3 in my running back rankings in June. After the suspension, he falls to #15 behind C.J. Anderson and ahead of Christian McCaffery. Six weeks is just too long to have a high round draft pick sit on the bench on your roster. By the time he returns, your team could be eliminated from playoff contention, a risk that is not worth taking, unless you can get Elliott in the seventh round or later. His current projections would make him a fringe fantasy starter in regular circumstances if he stays healthy for the remainder of the season, which is also not guaranteed. If you can get Elliott after landing another top-five running back the risk may be worth taking.
At this point, in leagues that have already drafted, Elliott Owners have already picked up McFadden or someone else beat them to the punch. If you have limited upside with your current running backs McFadden is definitely worth a shot. However, with the tough schedule, he is anything but a sure plug and play during Elliot’s absence.
McFadden is currently the 47th running back being taken in standard fantasy drafts but that will rise dramatically as well. Remember that he will not be a season long starter and is injury prone, he is not worth drafting before round 10. McFadden is currently ranked 31st on my running back rankings list.
ESPN: 195 Carries, 920 Yards, 4.7 Avg, 7 TD | 27 Catches 243 Yards 1 TD
Fantasy Football Today: 194 Carries, 932 Yards, 4.8 Avg, 7 TD | 24 Catches, 224 Yards, 1 TD
Number Fire: 191 Carries, 916 Yards, 4.7 Avg, 7 TD | 31 Catches, 301 Yards, 1 TD
ESPN: 153 Carries, 651 Yards, 4.2 Avg, 5 TD | 21 Catches, 162 Yards
Fantasy Football Today: 97 Carries, 446 Yards, 4.6 Avg, 5 TD | 16 Catches, 136 yards
Number Fire: 109 Carries, 439 Yards, 3 TD | 20 Catches, 151 Yards,
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