The NFL has suspended Ezekiel Elliott
for the first six games of the season. The suspension comes as a result of Elliott’s ex-girlfriend saying he assaulted her in July of 2016.
In a letter to Elliott advising him of the decision, Todd Jones, the NFL’s Special Counsel for Conduct, said these advisors “were of the view that there is substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that [Elliott] engaged in physical violence against Ms. Tiffany Thompson on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016.”
The letter cites photographic evidence of three instances of "physical force."
As Profootballtalk.com recounted, a looming suspension has long been discussed, even though Elliott was never arrested or charged with domestic violence and his insisted he did nothing wrong, and even though Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has insisted the franchise is steadfastly behind its second-year running back. The Columbus City Attorney's office announced in September that it would not pursue charges against Elliott because of "conflicting and inconsistent information," but the NFL can penalize a player even without legal charges.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Jerry Jones is said to be furious with NFL decision.
The six-game suspension is in line with the NFL’s policy on domestic violence, although that policy is flouted so often as to make it meaningless.
Elliott is expected to appeal the suspension, league sources told Schefter.
Elliott has three business days to file notice of appeal, and a hearing must be scheduled within 10 days of receipt of the notice, according to Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement, which governs appeal of commissioner discipline.
The appeal would be heard by the commissioner or his designee, usually former NFL executive Harold Henderson.
Elliott, the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft, led the NFL in rushing last season with 1,631 yards on 322 carries. He scored 15 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 32 passes for 363 yards and one touchdown and was named to the Pro Bowl.
With Elliott out, the Cowboys will turn to Darren McFadden, Rod Smith and Alfred Morris as their running backs. The team signed veteran Ronnie Hillman at the end of July, but head coach Jason Garrett said the addition had nothing to do with Elliott's potential suspension.
McFadden finished fourth in the NFL in rushing in 2015 with 1,089 yards despite not taking over until the seventh game of the season. He was limited to 24 carries last year because of a broken elbow. Morris has three 1,000-yard seasons to his credit but had 69 carries for 243 yards and two touchdowns in limited work last season. Smith has been taking turns as the third tailback in the early part of training camp.
From a fantasy perspective, a full six-game suspension will move Elliott down the rankings and lower his average draft position. Shrewd owners will take advantage when that value drops sufficiently. There's no doubt Elliott is a top-three fantasy weapon when he's on the field. With some preparation and planning, fantasy owners can cover for his absence -- while hoping the suspension is shortened by appeal -- and carry on with one of the NFL's top running backs.
That's if you can get past the off-field issues that landed him in this situation.