Ezekiel Elliott and his legal team’s loss on Thursday means that the six-game suspension NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tried to impose back in August finally will be enforced.
As we scramble to plug in a replacement running back, let’s keep in mind there is a human aspect to this case.
Elliott was accused by his ex-girlfriend in 2016 of domestic violence, but authorities in Columbus, Ohio, did not have a strong enough case, they believed, to pursue charges. So, from a criminal standpoint, Elliott was cleared.
The NFL’s investigation, which is not bound by the burden of proof of criminal law, found that there was enough evidence that Elliott violated the league’s code of conduct and thus warranted a six-game ban.
Either something happened and there is truth to the victim’s allegations or Elliott will pay a steep price for the sins of past offenders. Ray Rice, and his initial two-game suspension, comes immediately to mind.
There are no winners here.
Alfred Morris will step in for Elliott and should be considered an RB2 for fantasy purposes. This case has dragged on long enough that he’s been picked up in most leagues.
Darren McFadden is next on the Cowboys’ depth chart, but he’s 30 years old and has 24 carries over the last two years. The Cowboys have said he would get some looks if Elliott misses time, but McFadden has been inactive for each game this year and frequently had trouble staying healthy during his 20s.
Beneath McFadden is Rod Smith, a listed fullback who was a teammate of Elliott’s at Ohio State. The Cowboys are high on Smith as a potential every-down back. From a fantasy standpoint, he deserves a stash — whether you have Elliott or not.
Three of the Cowboys’ next six games are among the most generous to fantasy running backs. Atlanta, this week’s opponent, is 24th in fantasy points allowed. In three weeks, Dallas hosts the Chargers (26th) and in Week 15, they go to Oakland (28th) to play a Raiders defense that gave up 151 yards to LeSean McCoy two weeks ago.
So play Morris, stash Smith, and avoid McFadden.
The Eagles, by the way, play at Dallas a week from Sunday night. They are sixth in fewest average points allowed to RBs.
Doesn’t look as if there will be any real problems with weather this weekend. It will be seasonably chilly in places like Buffalo and Denver, but dry. Jacksonville is looking at 10-20 mph wind, but their kickers are so off the fantasy radars, it shouldn’t matter.
Stat of the week
The NFL reports that nearly 25 percent of the teams that have started 8-1 in the Super Bowl era have gone on to win the Lombardi Trophy.
Quarterbacks: Tampa Bay’s Ryan Fitzpatrick will be starting for the fifth different team in the last seven seasons. He’s like a relief pitcher in baseball. … Drew Brees has 10 touchdown passes during New Orleans’ six-game winning streak, pretty modest by his standards. His completion percentage, however, is an unreal 74.1 percent.
Running backs: Danny Woodhead practiced this week and could return in Week 11, when he’s eligible to come off injured reserve. The Ravens are at Cleveland in Week 15 and host the Colts in Week 16 in a couple of favorable matchups. … Bilal Powell is a mid-RB2 this week. Matt Forte (knee) missed practice again and the Jets are playing a Bucs defense that has given up seven touchdowns to opposing RBs over the last four games.
Wide receivers: Antonio Brown has never had a 100-yard outing in the game immediately after a bye. He has three TDs in six such contests, and had more than 80 yards five times, but he’s never cracked triple digits. … The temptation is to banish Houston’s Will Fuller V to fantasy Siberia because Tom Savage isn’t the playmaker Deshaun Watson was, but keep in mind that Savage targeted Fuller eight times last week. Fuller had 92 targets last season playing with Brock Osweiler and Savage and is still a WR3, especially in a decent matchup Sunday against New England. … On the flip side, like Danny Amendola this week for New England with Chris Hogan (shoulder) expected to be out again.
Ed Barkowitz, whose first three running backs drafted were David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dalvin Cook (ouch, ouch and ouch), has been writing about fantasy football since 2001.
WEEK 10 RANKINGS
- Russell Wilson, Sea. at Ari.
- Jared Goff, LAR vs. Hou.
- Tom Brady, NE at Den.
- Dak Prescott, Dal. at Atl.
- Drew Brees, NO at Buf.
- Matthew Stafford, Det. vs. Cle.
- Matt Ryan, Atl. vs. Dal.
- Kirk Cousins, Was. vs. Min.
- Marcus Mariota, Ten. vs. Cin.
- Ben Roethlisberger, Pit. at Ind.
- Tyrod Taylor, Buf. vs. NO
- Cam Newton, Car. vs. Mia.
Running backs/PPR, Opp.
- Le’Veon Bell, Pit. at Ind.
- Todd Gurley, LAR vs. Hou.
- LeSean McCoy, Buf. vs. NO
- Melvin Gordon, LAC at Jac.
- Leonard Fournette, Jac. vs. LAC
- Devonta Freeman, Atl. vs. Dal.
- Jordan Howard, Chi. vs. GB
- Alvin Kamara NO at Buf.
- Christian McCaffrey, Car. vs. Mia.
- Adrian Peterson, Ari. vs. Sea.
- Mark Ingram, NO at Buf.
- Chris Thompson, Was. vs. Min.
- Joe Mixon, Cin. at Ten.
- Bilal Powell, NYJ at TB
- Thomas Rawls, Sea. at Ari.
- Alfred Morris, Dal. at Atl.
- Jerick McKinnon, Min. at Was.
- Carlos Hyde, SF vs. NYG
- Lamar Miller, Hou. at LAR
- Ameer Abdullah, Det. vs. Cle.
- Orleans Darkwa, NYG at SF
- Aaron Jones, GB at Chi.
- James White, NE at Den.
- Latavius Murray, Min. at Was
- Duke Johnson, Cle. at Det.
Wide receivers/PPR, Opp.
- Antonio Brown, Pit. at Ind.
- Julio Jones, Atl. vs. Dal.
- A.J. Green, Cin. at Ten.
- Brandin Cooks, NE at Den.
- DeAndre Hopkins, Hou. at LAR
- Michael Thomas, NO at Buf.
- Doug Baldwin, Sea. at Ari.
- Stefon Diggs, Min. at Was.
- Larry Fitzgerald, Ari. vs. Sea.
- Dez Bryant, Dal. at Atl.
- T.Y. Hilton, Ind. vs. Pit.
- Jarvis Landry, Mia. at Car.
- Golden Tate, Det. vs. Cle.
- Demaryius Thomas, Den. vs. NE
- Keenan Allen, LAC at Jac.
- Adam Thielen, Min. at Was.
- Marvin Jones Jr., Det. vs. Cle.
- Sterling Shepard, NYG at SF
- Davante Adams, GB at Chi.
- Robert Woods, LAR vs. Hou.
- DeSean Jackson, TB vs. NYJ
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pit. at Ind.
- DeVante Parker, Mia. at Car.
- Will Fuller, Hou. at LAR
- Devin Funchess, Car. vs. Mia.
Tight ends, Opp.
- Rob Gronkowski, NE at Den.
- Jimmy Graham, Sea. at Ari.
- Evan Engram, NYG at SF
- Jack Doyle, Ind. vs. Pit.
- Charles Clay, Buf. vs. NO
- Cameron Brate, TB vs. NYJ
- Jordan Reed, Was. vs. Min.
- Delanie Walker, Ten. vs. Cin.
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NYJ at TB
- Kyle Rudolph, Min. at Was.
- Tyler Kroft, Cin. at Ten.
- Jason Witten, Dal. at Atl.
MOST POPULAR PICKUPS
This week/ESPN-run leagues
As of Thursday afternoon/Not including kickers/defenses
- Jared Goff, QB, Rams
- Robert Woods, WR, Rams
- Orleans Darkwa, RB, Giants
- Robby Anderson, WR, Jets
- Charles Clay, TE, Bills