It’s Fantasymageddon! The NFLpocalypse! It’s the end of the fantasy draft as we know it!
First, mercurial Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended six games stemming from multiple reported domestic violence incidents. Then, the Bills traded oft-injured leading receiver Sammy Watkins to the Rams, in what can conservatively can be described as a curious move. It made slightly more sense minutes later, when they announced a subsequent deal to acquire Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews.
But be advised: making “slightly more” sense out of something that didn’t make much sense is something that still makes little sense.
The impact of the Elliott suspension has multiple layers. Elliott’s fantasy value obviously takes a big hit. We were projecting Elliott’s number with a two-game suspension. With an appeal still to come — remember Greg Hardy had a 10-game ban to start 2015 reduced to four games — we project Elliott’s suspension will be reduced to four games. We will downgrade Elliott accordingly, and if an appeal is denied, then we will adjust to six games.
That would slot Elliott after early third-round options like Todd Gurley, Leonard Fournette and ahead of less appealing options like Marshawn Lynch, Lamar Miller and Christian McCaffrey. If the six-game ban is upheld, then the fall becomes steeper — that’s nearly half the fantasy regular season. At that point, he will be among more risky options in or around Round 5, behind Carlos Hyde, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon C.J. Anderson and Ty Montgomery, but ahead of Spencer Ware, Bilal Powell and any Saints running back.
It also makes Darren McFadden a middle-round pick, adding at least four games as a feature back to his inherent handcuff value. In deep leagues, it means Alfred Morris becomes a DMC cuff option.
The Bills deals are interesting, albeit less impactful. We’re stunned by how much they must hate Watkins … and Robert Woods. First, they declined to pick up Watkins’ fifth-year option. Then they traded him to one of the worst possible landing spots for a wide receiver. A landing spot where, it just so happens, the former Bills wide receiver Woods can continue a career of irrelevancy behind Watkins (not that Woods needs much help in this regard).
We weren’t especially high on Watkins, based on situation and fragility. Now, he takes that brittleness to a worse situation.
Matthews now arrives in Buffalo to be the … to be the what? He never has proven to be an effective WR1. He has done his best work out of the slot, but that role presumably was filled with the signing of Anquan Boldin. Do they move Boldin to the outside, where his lack of speed is more pronounced? Do these moves signify a greater confidence in rookie Zay Jones?
We do think it adds a bump to RB LeSean McCoy’s value, expecting the offense to lean even more heavily on the ground game and him getting an increased role in the passing game.
But the Bills’ receiving options, with no clear-cut go-to guy, is a situation we likely will avoid come draft day.