Fantasy football: How to handle Ezekiel Elliott issue on draft day

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The biggest question entering fantasy football drafts is what to do with Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

The 2016 rushing champion was suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy. While Elliott could make for a great value pick, owners must determine the right time to take him and how to make up for the points not realized without him.

Before the ruling, which was appealed at a hearing Tuesday, Elliott was widely considered a top-three pick overall. Now his average draft position on many websites is in the second or third round of 10- and 12-team leagues. Even if Elliott’s suspension stays at six games, he’s worth stowing on your bench.

In 15 games last season, Elliott had 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing and 363 yards and one touchdown receiving. Based on his per-game averages, in a 10-game season, Elliott would have 1,087 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing and 242 yards and at most one touchdown receiving.

Falcons running back Devonta Freeman rushed for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Add in 462 yards and two touchdowns receiving, and he finished sixth in point-per-reception scoring among running backs. Elliott isn’t the receiver Freeman is, but his rushing prowess gives him the potential to put up low-end RB1 numbers with six fewer games.

Obviously, variables will be at work. Elliott wouldn’t be able to participate in team activities during the suspension, so he wouldn’t be in football shape upon his return. He’d also need some time to get back in rhythm with the offense. But you’d have a well-rested and immensely talented player in your lineup.

In the meantime, you’d need to hit on a later-round back to fill the void. You could go with Elliott’s backup, Darren McFadden, who totaled 1,417 yards in 2015. But he doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence with a history of injuries and ineffectiveness. His ADP is 92.9

Better options include Frank Gore, who’ll get plenty of work in the Colts’ backfield. Granted, he’s on the downside of his career, but he was seventh in carries last season and 12th in RB scoring. Plus, the team might have to lean on him early until quarterback Andrew Luck works out the kinks in his shoulder. Gore’s ADP is 67.7 on

Ameer Abdullah’s slow start to his career has his ADP at 77.4. That’s great value for the Lions’ top back, who’s fully recovered from a season-ending foot injury last season. And his injury risk to you is mitigated in that you only need him for seven weeks (Elliott would return in Week 8 because his bye is in Week 6).

C.J. Anderson’s ADP is at 79.6, and he has had a great preseason. He’ll lead the way at the start for the Broncos, who are without Devontae Booker (wrist). You could wait even longer for the Ravens’ Terrance West, whose ADP is 92.1. He hasn’t had a great preseason, but he’s their top back and, again, you don’t need him all year.

If you strike gold with one of these backs, you’d have a bargaining chip around the trade deadline. But remember, Elliott could be dead weight on your roster for seven weeks. Owners are most active on the waiver wire early in the season, so you might miss out on a claim. You’ll have to weigh the benefit as it pertains to your roster size.

But imagine taking David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell in the first round and Elliott in the third. You’d have to wait awhile to collect on that bet, but it might be worth the gamble.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffreyA22.




Based on PPR scoring


  1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
  2. Tom Brady, Patriots
  3. Drew Brees, Saints
  4. Matt Ryan, Falcons
  5. Andrew Luck, Colts
  6. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers
  7. Derek Carr, Raiders
  8. Kirk Cousins, Redskins
  9. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
  10. Cam Newton, Panthers


  1. David Johnson, Cardinals
  2. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
  3. LeSean McCoy, Bills
  4. Devonta Freeman, Falcons
  5. Melvin Gordon, Chargers
  6. Jordan Howard, Bears
  7. DeMarco Murray, Titans
  8. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
  9. Jay Ajayi, Dolphins
  10. Todd Gurley, Rams
  11. Leonard Fournette. Jaguars
  12. Marshall Lynch, Raiders
  13. Isaiah Crowell, Browns
  14. Lamar Miller, Texans
  15. Dalvin Cook, Vikings
  16. Carlos Hyde, 49ers
  17. Bilal Powell, Jets
  18. Kareem Hunt, Chiefs
  19. Ty Montgomery, Packers
  20. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers


  1. Antonio Brown, Steelers
  2. Jordy Nelson, Packers
  3. Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
  4. Mike Evans, Buccaneers
  5. Julio Jones, Falcons
  6. J. Green, Bengals
  7. Brandin Cooks, Patriots
  8. Michael Thomas, Saints
  9. Y. Hilton, Colts
  10. DeAndre Hopkins, Texans
  11. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
  12. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
  13. Keenan Allen, Chargers
  14. Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
  15. Amari Cooper, Raiders
  16. Michael Crabtree, Raiders
  17. Brandon Marshall, Giants
  18. Davante Adams, Packers
  19. Alshon Jeffery, Eagles
  20. Golden Tate, Lions
  21. Willie Snead, Saints
  22. Tyreek Hill, Chiefs
  23. Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos
  24. Terrelle Pryor, Redskins
  25. Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers
  26. Allen Robinson, Jaguars
  27. Martavis Bryant, Steelers
  28. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
  29. Pierre Garcon, 49ers
  30. Sammy Watkins, Bills


  1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
  2. Travis Kelce, Chiefs
  3. Greg Olsen, Panthers
  4. Jimmy Graham, Seahawks
  5. Jordan Reed, Redskins
  6. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
  7. Tyler Eifert, Bengals
  8. Delanie Walker, Titans
  9. Martellus Bennett, Packers
  10. Zach Ertz, Eagles



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