Suspension casts doubt on Ezekiel Elliott's fantasy draft status

The NFL doled out serious punishment Friday, handing down a six-game suspension to star running back Ezekiel Elliott. Previously viewed as a top-three overall lock in fantasy drafts, he’s bound to slip. A likely appeal and cloudiness around when the suspension could be enforced only complicate matters. So, what round should owners jump in? Yahoo’s team of opinionated fanalysts offer their two cents.

Scott Pianowski: I won’t consider Elliott in the first two rounds. In the third round, it will largely depend on the room, the competition level, what I already have, and how confident I feel about making the playoffs (more confident, the more I can take a long-term view and be Elliott accepting; if the league competitive, I’m less likely to accept the dead roster spot early).

I don’t accept the idea that September isn’t a big deal for fantasy. I want a quick start, and the leverage that comes along with it. Sure, Zeke will be easy to replace early in the sense that most of your roster should be healthy and you’re not dealing with byes at the start. But you’re also dealing with the theoretical bests lineups from your opponents. Elliott should be a monster when he returns, no one disputes his talent. But I’m only going to take him if things fall into place for me at the draft table; I will not select him proactively or aggressively. I’m not trying to be a hero here. Floor in the first 2-3 rounds probably matters to me more than most drafters. Upside? Anyone you consider in those rounds offers upside.

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Andy Behrens: We’ve had this conversation in previous years when considering suspensions to elite players like Le’Veon Bell and Tom Brady. It’s never easier to manage around an absence than it is in the opening weeks, before the byes begin. You simply have to draft Elliott with the understanding that you’ll need a seat-filler for six games, maybe less upon appeal. (Dallas will settle for Darren McFadden; you might be able to do better.)

Let’s also remember that the most important weeks of the fantasy season are in December, when it’s win-or-go-home time. Missing games due to suspension in September and October, while not ideal, is hardly a season-ender. However, the current length of the suspension clearly knocks him out of Round 1 and possibly Round 2 as well.

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Liz Loza: Given the post-September successes of Tom Brady and Le’Veon Bell last year, it’s unlikely that Zeke’s ADP falls below the third round. In my estimation, the comparisons linking the aforementioned players and Dallas’ sophomore RB are 100 percent incongruent, as Zeke doesn’t have the experience or resume of either Brady or Bell. Personally, I’m not touching Elliot before the fourth round and I’m certainly not wasting a roster spot on Darren McFadden, assuming he’s the bellcow’s handcuff. The ‘Boys backfield has the toughest strength of schedule over the first five weeks of 2017. I’m not leaving those match-ups to a 30-year-old RB with a detailed injury history. Fade.

Brad Evans: Upon hearing the wound-inflicting news, the early drafter who rolled the dice on Elliott was likely overcome with shock. Several prior indications suggested at most 2-3 games were expected, but six? That’s a game changer. We know who Zeke is. No matter if you glance at the superficial or advanced data, it’s impossible to dispute his elite talent level and locked in bellcow role (76% opportunity share in ’16) behind a plus, though currently damaged, offensive line. But in street clothes 53.8 percent of the fantasy regular season (bye included), he has to be downgraded.

For me, he bottoms out at RB10 (between DeMarco Murray and Leonard Fournette), a discounted gem worth consideration at the end of Round 2 or early portion of Round 3 in 12-team drafts. Snag him at that spot and fill the multi-week void with any number of affordable and serviceable rushers. Some suggestions: Jonathan Stewart, Terrance West or Bilal Powell. Each boast fantasy friendly run schedules (top-five easiest) to start the year (Weeks 1-5). FWIW, Darren McFadden, the presumed beneficiary of Zeke’s absence, does not. Dallas owns THE hardest slate for RBs over that same span. Don’t overspend on his services.

Similar to Le’Veon Bell last year, Elliott is sure to shift fantasy league power over the season’s second half. Draft him and get creative.

Follow the Yahoo crew on Twitter: Scott (@scott_pianowski), Dalton (@DaltonDelDon), Liz (@LizLoza_FF), Andy (@andybehrens) and Brad (@YahooNoise)