Editor’s note: This article originally was written on Oct. 12, 2017, and doesn’t reflect recent reports that Alfred Morris could be the Dallas Cowboys’ lead running back in Ezekiel Elliott’s absence because of his six-game suspension.
Leave it to the Dallas Cowboys to find a way to steal the headlines in dramatic fashion during their bye week.
According to multiple reports, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to vacate Ezekiel Elliott’s preliminary injunction. For those of us that aren’t lawyers, essentially the court dropped Zeke’s appeal, clearing the way for the NFL to reinstate his six-game suspension.
The Cowboys don’t play again until Oct. 22 (Week 7 at the 49ers), but as it currently stands, Elliott’s suspension is being enforced now and he is not allowed back onto the field until Nov. 30 — a Week 13 Thursday night showdown with the Redskins.
Elliott would be a monster loss to the Dallas offense, as he currently ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards with 393. On top of that, his 122 touches are the second-most in the league, as he’s become more involved in the passing game this season, posting a 17-134-1 line through the air. The bottom line is that this has been Elliott’s backfield and nobody else’s.
One extremely important aspect to point out is that Elliott is already expected to appeal this suspension once again, so the storyline will continue. Perhaps Elliott finds a way back onto the field within the next 10 days, even if it just pushes back the suspension a little longer.
But if the suspension is upheld, here are the fantasy implications you’ll need to pay attention to.
Zeke has played on 294 snaps so far in 2017, while the remainder of the Cowboys’ backfield has combined for 29 snaps. Needless to say, some major opportunities are about to open up.
What it means for Alfred Morris
Morris has been Elliott’s backup so far this season, which hasn’t meant much. The former Redskins standout has only seen the field in three games thus far, playing just 16 total snaps. He’s made the most of those plays, though, gaining 87 yards on eight carries.
Let’s not forget that Morris began his career with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons before slowing down, including a 335-1,613-13 line as a rookie. This guy is no stranger to carrying the load. Given that Morris has been active this season (versus five healthy scratches for Darren McFadden) provides hope that he could be the featured back until Elliott’s able to return.
At worst, Morris is in line to see a much larger role in the Cowboys’ offense in any game that Elliott is not on the field. Rod Smith has been the third active RB on the roster, but don’t expect that to change, even without Elliott.
What it means for Darren McFadden
McFadden has been a total mystery this season. He was a hot name leading into Week 1 as the potential starter for the first six games of the season, and that obviously turned into nothing with Elliott’s suspension going to court.
McFadden has been a healthy scratch in all five games to this point, but that’ll change if Elliott is not allowed to suit up. The big debate in the fantasy community over the next 10 days (or until clarity is provided) will be whether Morris or McFadden will be Dallas’ starting RB.
The case for McFadden is his recent success with the Cowboys. In his first year with the team in 2015, he ran for 1,089 yards as the starter. But he’s played in just three games since and has been completely irrelevant in the fantasy world in the Elliott era.
Both Morris and McFadden become instant adds in season-long formats, but I prefer Morris given his more recent contributions. That said, Dallas does have trust in McFadden as a lead back, which could make this situation something of a committee.
The other factor here is that if the rushing attack isn’t able to get going behind Morris and McFadden, the passing game could be relied upon more until Elliott returns. For now, we need to see what the ground game is capable of, and a matchup against the 49ers’ 31st-ranked defense versus RBs in Week 7 is the perfect way to find out. If it falters, Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and Jason Witten might have to produce a little bit more until Week 13.
Stay tuned and follow along for all the updates on DK Live.
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