- The impulse pickup is to grab Elliott's backup, but will Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden carve out enough of a role? Here are all the options you should consider for replacing Dallas's star running back.
By now, every fantasy owner has heard the news. Ezekiel Elliott could finally be facing the six-game suspension the league handed down during the offseason. If that’s the case, he won’t be eligible to play until Week 13, the final week of the regular season in most fantasy leagues.
First, Elliott owners should not drop him. Elliott could re-file the injunction that barred the suspension, which could lead to a subsequent injunction that would keep him on the field. Even if he is suspended, he’d return in time for the fantasy playoffs, and he’s too valuable to simply drop for waiver-wire flotsam. If you’re in a position where you desperately need the roster spot, try to use him as a trade sweetener.
As for the state of the Dallas backfield, the fantasy community must now read the tea leaves on Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. The former appears to be the likely starter in Elliott’s stead. He has been his primary backup this season, though that has resulted in just eight carries and 17 snaps. McFadden, however, has been inactive for all five of the Cowboys’ games this season. That’s a clear advantage for Morris. For what it’s worth, McFadden is the superior pass-catching back by a wide margin.
At the same time, the way the Cowboys have operated to this point of the season is no guarantee of what they’ll do if Elliott’s suspension is upheld. The second-year back out of Ohio State is one of the true workhorses in the league, handling 90% of the touches out of the backfield this season. They didn’t need to concern themselves too strongly with the identity of his technical backup. They won’t have a workhorse back in a post-Elliott world, meaning Morris and McFadden will certainly share the backfield duties. It’s possible one of them proves the better fit, relegating the other to a backup role, or they could split touches right down the middle.
There’s a good chance not even the Cowboys know exactly how they’ll handle this, especially since they have a bye in Week 6, giving them more than a week to figure out their backfield without Elliott available.
Still, given Morris’s status as the backup through the first five weeks of the season, he should be the priority add. Both he and McFadden should be added in all fantasy leagues, no matter format or size.
For other possible Elliott replacements, let’s consult our Week 6 Waiver Wire column.
Alex Collins, RB, Ravens
Collins was effective again last week picking up 55 yards on 12 rushes. He gave up the lead role to Javorius Allen, which makes this a trick situation to peg, but there’s no question that Collins has been the team’s best runner since he returned from injury. Allen will get most, if not all, of the pass-catching work, but Collins is the best bet to lead the team in carries the rest of the season. It’s going to be a headache to deal with, but any Elliott owner is a beggar, not a chooser, at this point. At the very least, Collins will have enough of a role to be worthy of RB3 or flex consideration most weeks.
Wayne Gallman, RB, Giants
There isn’t a whole lot to get excited about with the Giants, but Gallman is capable of providing a silver lining over the final 12 weeks of the year. The rookie out of Clemson looked good for the second straight game last week, racking up 57 yards on 11 carries and catching all five of his targets for 25 yards. With Beckham on the shelf, and Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall also nursing ankle injuries, the Giants are going to need to hunt for playmakers wherever they can find them. That means there could be room for both Gallman and Orleans Darkwa to have fantasy-relevant roles the rest of the way.
Marlon Mack, RB, Colts
Mack looked great in Week 5, running for 91 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. He set up Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal in overtime with a 35-yard run, giving the Colts an alternative to Frank Gore late in the game. Gore still led the backfield in carries, targets and snaps, but he got just 48 yards on his 14 totes. It’d be silly to expect Mack to steal Gore’s job, and chances are he won’t be worthy of a start in most fantasy formats for the time being. Still, with what he showed on Sunday, we can bet on him carving out a larger role in the Colts offense, and one that leads to him being fantasy-relevant for the rest of the year. At the very least, he’ll be a valuable depth back who serves as a palatable spot starter when your regulars are on bye.
Matt Breida, RB, 49ers
Carlos Hyde has been nursing a hip injury the last few weeks, so, on paper, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise to see him sit out most of the second half and overtime of the 49ers’ loss to the Colts in Week 5, even though he wasn’t on the injury report late in the week. After the game, however, Kyle Shanahan said the hip injury had nothing to do with it. It’s not easy to see why Hyde would get benched for Matt Breida, but if that scenario is in play the fantasy community must react. Breida ran for 49 yards on 10 carries and caught three passes for 22 yards in the loss to the Colts. He started the season with a small role behind Hyde, but now has double-digit touches in consecutive games. Even with Hyde’s surprise benching, it would be a shock to see Breida, an undrafted rookie out of Georgia Southern, move to the top of the depth chart. Hyde entered Week 5 with 321 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 62 carries, good for 5.18 yards per carry, and 17 catches for 88 yards. With Shanahan muddying the situation, though, Breida is worth an add in all fantasy formats, even if you go into the claim knowing that he’s almost certain to be a backup all year.
C.J. Prosise, RB, Seahawks
Prosise has missed Seattle’s last two games with ankle injury. He’s likely to return after the Week 6 bye, and, if anything, his value to the Seahawks has increased in his absence. No one in the backfield, from Eddie Lacy to Thomas Rawls to J.D. McKissic, has grabbed the job and run away with it. If someone is going to, it will be Prosise. Elliott was undoubtedly one of the most important players on your team. Of all the backs listed here, Prosise is the only one with league-winning upside. If you’re looking for the home run, he’s it.