The NFL suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott on Friday for six games for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Elliott has three days to file an appeal, and this has a significant impact on his Fantasy value for the upcoming season.
Prior to the suspension, Elliott was being selected at No. 3 overall behind David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell, according to the Average Draft Position on Fantasy Pros. Now, if the suspension holds, you can expect Elliott to fall to Round 3 or 4 at the earliest in the majority of leagues if he's only playing a 10-game season.
If the suspension is reduced to four games or less, you can see Elliott creep back into the second round. But we have to see how all of this unfolds with the appeal process. Keep in mind the Cowboys have a bye in Week 6, which means the earliest Elliott will be eligible to play is Week 8 if the suspension holds.
Last year, Elliott was the No. 2 Fantasy running back behind Johnson with 322 carries for 1,631 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns and 32 catches for 363 yards and one touchdown. His rushing yards led the NFL, and he did all of his damage in 15 games since he sat out Week 17 to rest for the playoffs. He scored double digits in Fantasy points in every game he played, including seven with at least 20 points in standard formats.
While Elliott is an elite talent, a big part of his success was the Dallas offensive line, which is among the best in the NFL. And now Darren McFadden gets to run behind that line for potentially the first six games of the season. The Cowboys could also give work to Alfred Morris or Rod Smith, but McFadden will likely start and handle the majority of touches.
In 2015, McFadden was the primary running back for the Cowboys, and he had 239 carries for 1,089 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns and 40 catches for 328 yards. He was a top-20 running back despite the Cowboys being without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for most of the year due to injuries.
With Dak Prescott a quarterback on the rise and Bryant healthy, McFadden should have more success this year in the games he's able to start. You should plan to draft McFadden as early as Round 6 in the majority of leagues if the six-game suspension for Elliott is upheld.
McFadden is a great target for Fantasy owners who take a Zero-RB approach, and it's not a bad idea to lock up this Cowboys backfield with Elliott and McFadden, even if you have to draft both in the first six rounds. The production you will get is worth it.