Update — Oct. 12: Ezekiel Elliott's suspension has been reinstated by the 5th Circuit. While this doesn't effect Elliott's fantasy status for this week — the Cowboys are off on Sunday — the court decision obviously impacts Elliott's status for the rest of the season. While there is a good chance the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York will grant Elliott another injunction against the suspension, Elliott owners should begin looking for a potential suspension replacement as the case switches venues. With the uncertainty surrounding the Cowboys backup running back situation behind Elliott — neither Alfred Morris, nor Darren McFadden is a sure thing to take over the bulk of Elliott's heavy workload — it's probably better to look elsewhere for a stop-gap.
The Dallas Observer received the following query Tuesday night from someone identified as "Big Poppa Pump" from New Jersey.
Hi Stephen, I just finished reading your article, which was the most well informed article I read on the matter, and had to ask this question. Based off of all the information in the article would you say that Elliott is likely to get suspended this year? I have his backup in my fantasy football league and need to know if I should hold onto him. If not I am wasting a roster space because he doesn’t play when Elliott is active. This seems stupid but it would be a great help. Thanks in advance.
Presumably, Pump was referring to our analysis of Ezekiel Elliott's latest appeal hearing in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which left the Cowboys, the NFL, Elliott and Elliott's fantasy football owners in limbo as to whether Elliott will serve all or part of his six-game suspension during the 2017 season.
While the Observer has addressed the legal and football implications of Elliott's suspension, which stems from domestic violence allegations made by his ex-girlfriend in July 2016, multiple times over the past several months, we've yet to take on what it means to our readers' fantasy teams — which are, of course, the most important things in the world.
As things stand Thursday morning:
If you have Elliott on your roster
Don't trade him now; with the uncertainty surrounding his status, you won't receive full value in return. Despite a rocky start to 2017, Elliott is still one of the most valuable backs in fantasy football, and he figures to be so as long as he is on the field. Even if the 5th Circuit dismisses Elliott's lawsuit because it was filed before NFL arbiter Harold Henderson ruled on his league appeal, the battle over the suspension will move to New York, where the NFL filed a competing lawsuit.
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While the likelihood of Elliott ultimately prevailing would dip — Tom Brady's unsuccessful Deflategate appeal started in the same court — the same factors that caused U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III to block the suspension in the first place will be in play. Elliott can't get back any games he misses, and the potential for irreparable harm is a big factor in whether courts grant temporary restraining orders or preliminary injunctions. If Elliott gets an injunction from a New York court, he will likely play out 2017 on the field as his suit proceeds in court.
If you have one of the Cowboys' backups on your roster like Big Poppa Pump
If you've stashed Cowboys running backs Darren McFadden or Alfred Morris on your bench in hopes that they'll pick up a heavy workload if Elliott is suspended, you can probably cut them loose if you've got your eye on someone on the waiver wire.
Neither Morris nor McFadden is a sure thing to get Elliott's touches in the event of a suspension despite the fact that Morris has served as Elliott's backup for the season's first four games. Morris' home run potential — as evidenced by his 70-yard scamper against the Rams on Sunday — makes him a better low-volume substitute than McFadden, who is a more complete running back. There are likely better speculative options available on your league's waiver wire.
If you have neither Elliott nor one of the backups on your squad
Maybe it's worth trying to trade for Elliott. If you've got an Elliott-holding league mate who's skittish about a potential suspension, play on his or her fears. Elliott is likely going to be around for the rest of the season. Even if he isn't and begins serving his suspension in the next couple of weeks, he'll be back, fully rested, in time for the beginning of the fantasy playoffs in week 14 or 15.