- Ezekiel Elliott's suspension will send his fantasy value plunging and cause Darren McFadden's to rise. But is the Cowboys' RB worth the high draft pick?
The NFL handed down a six-game suspension to Ezekiel Elliott on Friday for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, a suspension that significantly cuts into Elliott’s fantasy value. Owners who draft him will be without him for not six weeks but seven, because the Cowboys’ bye is in Week 6.
Previously Elliott was a consensus top-three fantasy running back and top-five fantasy pick overall before getting suspended, and 4for4’s value-based standard rankings now have Elliott dropping to the No. 12 RB and the No. 26 player overall with the news. PPR drafters have to brace for even more of a fall, as Elliott drops all the way down to the No. 18 RB and the No. 50 player overall in 4for4’s value-based PPR rankings.
Veteran Darren McFadden is now expected to start the Cowboys’ first six games. But at 30 years old and not nearly as talented as Elliott, McFadden can’t be expected to live up to lofty bar Elliott set in his rookie season. As a starter from Week 6 on in 2015, McFadden averaged 11.9 standard fantasy points per game (14.4 in PPR). That’s not bad, but Elliott averaged 19.7 standard fantasy points per game (21.8 in PPR). 4for4 now has McFadden ranked as the No. 33 RB and No. 99 overall player in standard formats. In PPR, McFadden is now ranked as the No. 35 RB and No. 101 overall.
In terms of raw numbers, 4for4’s RB projections now forecast Elliott for 185 carries 1,018 yards, and 7.5 TDs rushing, along 21 receptions for 211 yards and 0.7 TDs receiving. McFadden’s projections clock in at 188 carries, 741 yards and 4.4 TDs rushing, with 30 receptions for 191 yards and 0.9 TDs receiving.
Although Elliott still carries a high ranking in standard formats, it would be risky to pick him in the third round due to the opportunity cost. You would already be without him for seven weeks, and there is no guarantee he stays healthy—or out of trouble— for the entire duration of the season. In PPR formats, overzealous drafters may not fully account for this difference between Elliott’s value in PPR relative to standard and still draft him too highly, making it difficult to secure him with what would be a more palatable fifth-round pick.
McFadden will be a lower-risk draft pick than Elliott as long as his ADP doesn’t creep into the same vicinity. Spending a mid-round pick on six games of McFadden, a starting running back behind one of the league’s best offensive lines, gives owners a lot more margin for error than spending a high-leverage pick on a half-season of Elliott—especially when other potential 16-game studs are still available in that ADP range.