As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, Ezekiel Elliott will miss the first six games of the NFL season due to a suspension handed down by the NFL. As you’ve also heard, Elliott will likely appeal the suspension in effort to get less games.
But for you fantasy owners this is a lot of question marks for a player who was projected as a top three player before the suspension. So where do you draft Elliott?
Elliott took the league by storm last year as he rushed for 1,631 yards and ran for 15 touchdowns earning him the NFL rushing title. As for fantasy, he was second in scoring behind David Johnson (407.8 points) with 325.4 points.
So where do you draft Elliott?
Elliott will return to the Cowboys the day after their week 7 game against the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunate? Yes, a lot as the 49ers had THE worst run defense last year allowing opponents an average of 165.9 yards per game.
But the remainder of Elliott’s schedule is still very favorable as only two of his ten opponents allowed less than a 100 yards rushing a game last season.
So where would I draft Elliott at this year? Around the late second round/early third round. Yes, this may seem crazy as he’ll hold a roster spot for seven weeks (Including Bye) on my team and he’ll do so as second or third round pick which is very valuable.
But here’s how you’ll fill his loss.
As long as you can stay afloat and tread water while Elliott is suspended then you’ll have a legit shot at winning your entire league.
The quarterback and wide receiver depth this year is crazy deep, which is why I’m okay with drafting Elliott with a six game suspension. But what this means is you have to get a running back in the first round. And as crazy as it sounds, obviously it depends on who falls to you when you’re on the clock but I’d go three running backs in the first three rounds.
Reason being? I LOVE some of these wide receiver options who based on their ADP according to Fantasy Pros (Average draft position) all fall past the third round.
Allen Robinson, ADP 37: I love Robinson and despite a down year last year, I truly believe that Blake Bortles and their new offensive scheme under Doug Marrone will change things around there. I also love the additional presence of Tom Coughlin, who has been very involved in the day-to-day operations on the field with the players which will make a difference. Expect a similar season to 2015.
Keenan Allen, ADP 42.8: Yes he’s more injury prone than Tracy McGrady. BUT, like Allen said, he’s just had bad luck. A torn ACL, lacerate kidney and a PCL tear, Allen has had some bad luck. But he’s finally starting a training camp out unrestricted and ready to go and that’s a great sign for potential fantasy owners. Listen it’s a new city and a new stadium for Allen this year. But it’s the same team and it’s Los Angeles and Los Angeles loves their stars, just like you’re going to love Keenan Allen again.
Tyreek Hill, ADP 46: Yes I know a lot of people are concerned with a lot of things when it comes to Hill has he’s viewed as only a big threat player, not a true number one and only a quick and explosive player. However, if head coach Andy Reid wants a player involved then he’ll find a way to get that player involved and he’ll do it heavily. And Reid loves Hill and why not? What is there not to love about Hill. Yes, Jeremy Maclin is gone but the Chiefs still have Travis Kelce at the tight end position who will draw a ton of attention from opposing defenses as well. Wide receiver, Julio Jones was the only player to have more 100 yard games last season than Kelce, so trust me the Chiefs still have a number one.
Kelvin Benjamin, ADP 69.8: This is just crazy talk. An ADP of 69.8?! Yes, he missed the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL and he appeared to miss the entire 2016 season as he looked like casper the ghost. However, despite looking out of shape coming into this off-season, Benjamin responded well in 2017. Did you watch his first pre-season game against the Houston Texans? His 23 yard touchdown from Derek Anderson…wow. Yeah, he’s going to be just fine. Call it a hot take, but Benjamin is going to have a career year this season.
Brandon Marshall, ADP 76.3: If you’re reading this article then you probably think that I’m making these ADP numbers up. But I promise you that I’m not. Yes, I know he’s joining forces with Odell Beckham Jr. and they have a nice young tight end in Evan Engram but I’m not concerned with either. The Giants still don’t have a running game and they play in a division with some of the worst secondaries. Also a little fun fact here, since 2012 Eli Manning has attempted the most passes in the red zone. As for Marshall, since 2012, he’s ranked as the best red zone receiver.
Other solid options, Stefon Diggs (ADP 70.5) DeSean Jackson (ADP 92.3), Eric Decker (ADP 99.5) and Corey Coleman (ADP 116.3).
Now if you go a different approach and get a wide receiver or two in the first three rounds with Elliott here are some running back options that will suit you just fine.
Christian McCaffrey, ADP 33.0: Yes, rookies are always a risk as we never know how they’ll transition to the NFL game but I love McCaffrey. He’s going to be heavily involved in the Panthers offense and rightfully so as he’s a true dual threat running back. Multiple scouts said the player in this year’s NFL draft that had the best hands was Christian McCaffrey and they were including the wide receivers.
Carlos Hyde, ADP 36.3: Hyde was banged up last year and still just came shy of 1,000 yards and their team last year was light years worse than this year’s team. While I don’t expect a top ten performance, I expect Hyde to be a solid RB number 2 as he’s a very elusive running back and he’s still one of the top running backs in the NFL.
Spencer Ware, ADP 46.8: Yes Ware did end the 2016-17 NFL season like he was going to lose his starting job to rookie, Kareem Hunt. But don’t forget how explosive and impressive Ware was before; 4.3 yards per carry, 921 yards rushing and 447 yards receiving. He’s also playing in a very favorable Andy Reid offense which could make him very capable of being a top five fantasy running back.
Ameer Abdullah, ADP 68.5: I’ve been waiting for Abdullah to have a breakout season by now. Yes, he’s entering his third season but this is the year. Beat writers are calling Abdullah the Lions second most valuable player behind Matthew Stafford and Lions themselves are high on the youngster as well. If Abdullah stays healthy the ceiling is the roof, especially in PPR leagues.
Robert Kelley, ADP 94.8: Robert Kelley in almost the 10th round?! Say whaaaaat? Yes, the Redskins did draft the rookie out of Oklahoma in Samaje Perine. However, don’t forget what Kelley did last year. Of Kelley’s 168 carries last season, he gained at least one yard on 141 of those carries. That’s a positive gain on 84 percent of his runs. And on yards after contact he ranked first overall after being named the starter. But I’m not done yet. Kelley holds on to the ball. The last time Kelley fumbled was in his junior season at Tulane. Draft Kelley with confidence, he’ll re-win the starting job again if he has to.
Other solid options, Jacquizz Rodgers (ADP 139.5), Rodgers will be the starter for the first three games while Doug Martin faces a suspension. Darren McFadden (ADP 161.8) he’s an obvious one as he’ll be the bell cow while Elliott is out.
So draft Elliott without fear and follow the guide to make his selection pay off.